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Condoleezza Rice Will Not Speak at Rutgers

Condoleezza Rice on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, Calif., Thursday, July 19, 2012. Rice is former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush and was National Security Advisor. She was a professor of political science at Stanford University where she served as Provost. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Following student-led protests against her upcoming visit, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has declined the invitation to speak at Rugters University’s commencement celebration.

“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families. Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time,” Rice said in a statement. “As a Professor for thirty years at Stanford University and as (its) former Provost and Chief academic officer, I understand and embrace the purpose of the commencement ceremony and I am simply unwilling to detract from it in any way.”

According to NJ.com, 50 Rutgers students staged a sit-in in the school’s administrative building last week, demanding the removal of Rice as the commencement speaker. The University had planned to pay her $35,000 for her speech and an honorary Rutgers doctoral degree.

“While Rutgers University stands fully behind the invitation to Dr. Rice to be our commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree, we respect the decision she made and clearly articulated in her statement this morning,” Rutgers’ President Robert Barchi said in a statement. “Now is the time to focus on our commencement, a day to celebrate the accomplishments and promising futures of our graduates. We look forward to joining them and their families on May 18, 2014.”

But Rice is not alone. First lady Michelle Obama faced a similar fate last month. After protests from Topeka-area high school students, Obama decided to not speak at the district’s joint graduation. However, Obama will speak at a planned Senior Recognition Day, the day before graduation.