The campus of New Jersey state school Rutgers-Newark joined its sister school in New Brunswick today in calling for the university to rescind its invitation to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to serve as this year’s commencement speaker.
According to the Star-Ledger, more than 100 professors at the Newark campus joined today in agreeing to send a letter to the university’s president, Robert Barchi, calling to have Rice removed from commencement ceremonies for being, among other things, a “war criminal.”
So said one professor, H. Bruce Franklin, who also objected to the honorary degree Rice will receive from the university before delivering her address. The Rutgers-Newark faculty’s other major vote yesterday invited House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to speak on campus on the subject of women and politics.
The Rutgers-Newark vote follows a similar one at the school’s flagship campus in suburban New Brunswick last month. After the school’s Board of Governors voted to invite Rice to speak at Commencement and honor her with an honorary degree, the professors of the university sent a letter to President Barchi demanding they rescind the invitation. The letter claimed that Rice was involved in an “effort to mislead the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction” which made her ill-suited for honoring. One professor also claimed to the Star-Ledger that “many students are very concerned as well,” but no such students are quoted in the Ledger report, and both letters from Newark and New Brunswick only represent the faculty. The university rejected the letter’s demands.
Professors have also objected to the $35,000 fee that Rice will collect for her speech. The university has had several controversies over the past year, particularly with misuse of taxpayers’ dollars to pay for the leaders of sports programs that were unceremoniously removed for allegedly abusing college players. In one instance, a settlement with former basketball coach Mike Rice resulted in the university spending $475,000. In another, the university spent $70,000 on a background check for Athletic Director Julie Hermann that did not disclose numerous controversies in her career history.
Since departing the Bush administration, Rice has been an active member of the nation’s academic community, joining the Council on Foreign Relations and speaking at Princeton University. In addition to her role as academic speaker, Rice delivered a very well-received address to the Republican National Convention in 2012. Rice is currently working on a book scheduled for release in 2015 on democratization of developing states.