Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice backed out of giving Rutgers University's commencement speech today amid growing opposition among the school's students and faculty. Earlier this week, about 50 Rutgers students staged a sit-in inside the campus administration building to protest the selection of Rice to speak. She was scheduled to receive $35,000 for her speech and an honorary Rutgers doctoral degree.
The students called for Rutgers to disinvite Rice, echoing the sentiments of several campus faculty organizations that said the former U.S. Secretary of State was an inappropriate choice because of her involvement in the Bush administration’s support of the Iraq War, waterboarding and other controversies.
Rutgers officials had declined to rescind their invitation to Rice, saying the university welcomes debate on controversial issues. Until today, Rice had remained silent about the growing protests.
Rutgers faculty members who opposed Rice’s selection were scheduled to hold a "teach-in" on the New Brunswick campus Tuesday to discuss the controversy with students and the public.
"Attending the teach-in will be a strong signal that we will not sit quietly while a small group of irresponsible people dishonor our beloved university," said Rudolph Bell, a veteran history professor and one of the faculty members organizing the opposition, in a letter to the campus earlier this week.