WCW Home Take Action Videos & Reports of Demonstrations 4-30-14 Rutgers students decry Rice as commencement speaker
4-30-14 Rutgers students decry Rice as commencement speaker PDF Print E-mail

By Keith Sargeant

From USA Today | Original Article

Watch video here.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A faculty member leading the charge against Rutgers' selection of Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker said that he doesn't expect university officials to back down on awarding the former secretary of state an honorary law degree.

On Monday, more than 150 Rutgers students protested the decision because of her role in launching wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, staging a sit-in at the office of Rutgers President Robert Barchi. Charges were threatened against 20 students who remained after the building closed but no one was arrested.

"I think the commitment to having her speak has been made, and she lacks the dignity to withdraw. And so her commencement speech will go ahead," said Rudolph Bell, a history professor who organized a teach-in protest of Rice. "We will be going forward with our teaching. We hope the educational process will result in continual ripples in the fall where students and faculty take back their rightful role of selecting the commencement speaker."

Rice will receive $35,000 for speaking at the graduation ceremonies May 18.

President George W. Bush appointed Rice, now 59, as national security adviser, from 2001 to 2005, and secretary of state, from 2005 to 2009. The Birmingham, Ala., native was the first black woman to serve in both posts.

Photo: Bob Makin, (East Brunswick, N.J.) Home News Tribune

"She misled the American public," said Sherif Ibrahim, who helped organize the sit-in. "She made dozens of statements to several media outlets that said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and as we all know, Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. ...

"By awarding her an honorary degree, we are perpetuating things that are very wrong," he said. "Inviting her is allowing it to happen again, and we can do better than that."

University officials declined comment Tuesday on the protest and faculty criticism that the choice of Rice followed a breach of protocol.

Barchi's only public comment since the Board of Governors voted Feb. 4 to name Rice as commencement speaker came in a letter to the campus community in which he lauded Rice as "one of the most influential intellectual and political figures of the last 50 years."

As he lauded Rice's qualifications, he also defended the board's choice of Rice, who returned to Stanford University near Palo Alto, Calif., as a professor after her service as secretary of state.

"We cannot protect free speech or academic freedom by denying others the right to an opposing view, or by excluding those with whom we may disagree. Free speech and academic freedom cannot be determined by any group. They cannot insist on consensus or popularity."

Rice has received at least 10 other honorary degrees from universities across the country, according to her curriculum vitae on Stanford University's website. Her speeches at universities across the country sometimes bring out protesters:

• At a speech April 17 at the University of Minnesota, about 200 students chanted and waved signs outside while 1,200 listened inside. Rice was paid $150,000 for her lecture, according to the Minnesota Daily campus newspaper.

At a speech in 2011 after the publication of Rice's book, No Higher Honor, nearly 100 protesters gathered outside Claremont McKenna College's gymnasium. Among their demonstrations: simulated waterboarding, according to The Student Life newspaper at The Claremont Colleges consortium in Claremont, Calif.

• Earlier in 2011, the University of Chicago postponed a Rice appearance with former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. because of what university officials called a scheduling conflict after Occupy Chicago student protesters said they would attend. The university's website had no information on whether the speech ever occurred.

Earlier this month, Internet sharing service Dropbox appointed Rice to its board of directors, sparking debate on the private company's blog about her role as former national security adviser and her views on Web surveillance.

Rice contracts with the Washington Speakers Bureau as her exclusive agent and has spoken to business groups including the Business Council of Alabama in Montgomery; Hanover Insurance Co., based on Worcester, Mass.; and the Prudential Financial's Prudential Retirement division, based in Hartford, Conn., according to the bureau's website. Her fees vary.

At Rutgers, Bell expects additional protests before and perhaps during graduation ceremonies.

"Students and faculty may turn their back," he said. "They may wear armbands. They may walk out. They may simply not attend."

A T-shirt protests Rutgers University's selection of Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker.(Photo: Bob Makin, (East Brunswick, N.J.) Home News Tribune)

Students storm Barchi's office to protest Condoleezza Rice's commencement invitation

By Lin Lan

From The Daily Targum | Original Article



Dennis Zuraw / Staff Photographer

Over 50 Rutgers students participated in a sit-in yesterday at University President Robert L. Barchi’s office in protest of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s commencement invitation.

This was one of the largest sit-ins in Rutgers history, drawing police to the scene after a glass door was broken and a student allegedly cut their hand.


Starting at noon, students marched on the College Avenue campus from Scott Hall to the Old Queens building. They waved banners and paintings of Rice wearing a necklace of skulls next to an American flag dripping with blood.

Chanting “Hey ho, hey ho, Condi Rice has got to go,” the protestors were met by security guards when they arrived at Old Queens, the location of Barchi’s office. Security guards were unable to stop the crowd from entering the building.

Students piled onto a staircase and converged outside the office, which security guarded for the entirety of the demonstration.

Protestors said they would not move unless Barchi called a meeting to review the issue before Wednesday, although Barchi was not present for the sit-in.

Students expressed dissatisfaction when Felicia McGinty, vice chancellor for student affairs, was sent to address the issue in Barchi’s stead.

McGinty expressed her disappointed in the disturbance, noting that the protest interrupted many University staffers at work.

McGinty said she did not think the protests would do any good in changing the administration’s decision. She encouraged students to think reasonably.

Protest leaders repeatedly told students to be respectful so the administration would not have the grounds to ignore their pleas, but tensions still rose.

“You have a lot of lip,” McGinty told one student when he tried to make a follow-up statement.

Police guarded the entrance of Old Queens, barring media and protest supporters from entering the building and preventing students inside to leave unless they left permanently.

Students were ready to settle in and order food, but police barred food deliveries. McGinty said she was hoping protestors would get hungry enough and leave the building.

During the demonstration, protestors sang in honor of dead Iraqis, noting that their temporary hunger could not compare to what Iraqis endured during the Iraq War. Some gathered in prayer.

They repeatedly asked administration and police officials about their personal views on Rice’s crimes, to which all declined to comment.

Safia Hareema, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said the demonstration was not about politics, rather an issue of human decency.

Shireen Hamza, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said the protest is similar to what blacks endured during the Civil Rights Movement because even with media coverage and authorized protests, change is incredibly difficult.

Sherif Ibrahim, a School of Arts and Sciences senior who helped organize the protest, encouraged others to protest in a non-violent manner.

“Remember that if they drag you out, no violence. But this is your last chance to be in this building doing this, so do it right,” he said.

Students tweeted videos, chants and pictures from inside Barchi’s office hoping to reach those that were not allowed to join in.

Protestors claimed they were sweaty from building’s heat, worried about missing exams and starving from lack of food.

Since building closed at 5 p.m., protestors began to worry that they would be considered trespassers. About 20 students remained, noting that they were willing to take the risk and stay.

At around 6 p.m., police released a statement, notifying students that they were suspects for trespassing and were at the risk of prosecution.

An attorney representing protestors told them that they would be arrested if they did not evacuate the building.

Despite several students’ willingness to face arrest and suspension, the protesting group voted to end the sit-in.

They joined the rest of the protesters outside, walking out together with their posters and chanting.

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