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Students and Faculty Reject Idea of Bush-era War Criminal as Honoree

Outrage at Rutgers University grows over plan to have disgraced Bush official Condoleezza Rice receive honory degree, give commencement

Jon Queally

As individual professors called her a "war criminal" whose mere presence would tarnish the school's reputation, the body that represents the interests and concerns of faculty members at Rutgers University in New Jersey is slamming the administration's decision to invite Condoleezza Rice to give this year's commencement address and receive an honorary degree.

Both students and faculty at separate campuses have now signed off on resolutions calling for Rice to be disinvited.

“At the outset, we wish to record our concern that this decision was made in secret — outside of the traditional Rutgers procedures for selecting commencement speakers,’’ the executive board of the Rutgers University New Brunswick Faculty Council said in a statement on Wednesday. “Instead of soliciting nominations, the university community was simply informed last November that there was no need to make any suggestions because the decision on who would speak at commencement had already been made. We are concerned that the decision was made in a way that essentially denied free speech and open discourse to the university community.’’

At the Newark campus of the school, faculty and students also raised their voices against the decision by Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi, who has repeatedly stood by the decision to have Rice as the keynote speaker.

"This is not good for Rutgers," said H. Bruce Franklin, a Rutgers-Newark English and American Studies professor. "What we're doing is awarding an honorary degree and having a commencement speech from someone who is a war criminal."

According to the New Jersey Daily-Record:

University officials said last week Rice was chosen from a Board of Governors committee composed of members of the school’s two governing boards and people in the university community. After the Board of Governors on Feb. 4 unanimously voted to award Rice the commencement duty for a fee of $35,000 as well as give the national security adviser under former President George W. Bush an honorary degree, the faculty council’s executive committee approved a resolution on Feb. 28 that denounced Rice’s actions leading into and during the Iraq War.

The resolution, introduced by Robert Boikess, a professor in the chemistry and chemical biology department, stated that Rice “played a prominent role in (the Bush) administration’s effort to mislead the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the existence of links between al-Qaida and the Iraqi regime.’’

“As a public institution of higher learning, (Rutgers) should educate its students about past historical events, not pretend they never took place,’’ the resolution read. “A Commencement speaker... should embody moral authority and exemplary citizenship (and) an honorary Doctor of Laws degree should not honor someone who participated in a political effort to circumvent the law.’’

 

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