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  • RutgersLogoIt appears that commencement speaker mania has begun this spring.

    For its graduation ceremony on May 14, Rutgers University at New Brunswick has chosen to invite a speaker that some consider nothing short of evil, inappropriate, and ultimately, unqualified. In response, members of the Rutgers faculty council have demanded that the university rescind its invitation because its hosting this particular speaker would essentially destroy the institution's reputation as a bastion of scholarship.

    Has Rutgers once again invited Snooki, or another Jersey Shore washout? No.

    Actually, the Rutgers Board of Governors has unanimously invited Condoleezza Rice, the first female National Security Advisor; the first female African-American Secretary of State; the first female, first minority, and youngest Provost in Stanford University's history; and a distinguished professor of political science.

    Critics at Rutgers believe that Dr. Rice's being a conservative and a former member of the George W. Bush administration effectively disqualifies her from addressing a group of graduating college students. They have revealed their utter inability to recognize the value that a woman who has dedicated her life to scholarship and public service can provide to young people.

    According to the faculty council resolution passed in opposition to Dr. Rice's invitation, "A Commencement speaker... should embody moral authority and exemplary citizenship." Dr. Rice apparently fails on both of these accounts. Furthermore, according to the opinion of Distinguished Professor of History Rudolph Bell, one of the invitation's most vocal opponents, Dr. Rice simply "brings no positive merit."

    The opposing faculty members have entirely ignored the core purpose of a university's inviting a commencement speaker in the first place: dispensing remarks of some real value to a group of young people who will soon enter the workforce. This group of academics has managed to contort what should be a positive final university experience for students into one that might conceivably ruin their sense of morality.

    It is also shameful that these faculty members have expressed such indignant opposition to Dr. Rice's invitation, but have done no such thing in response to Rutgers President Robert Barchi's writing a letter to PresidentBarack Obama requesting that he deliver the university's 2016 commencement address. Barchi writes in his letter that he "cannot imagine a more inspirational commencement speaker on this important day in the history of Rutgers." It is quite ironic that the academics who disapprove of Dr. Rice's invitation because of her defense of the Bush administration's foreign policy, ostensibly have no issue with President Obama's defense of drone strikes or his continued use of Guantanamo Bay.

    Thankfully, Rutgers has done what any institution of higher education should do: firmly defend its invitation to an individual of Dr. Rice's caliber.

    Rutgers spokesperson Greg Trevor stated in response to the faculty opposition, "Dr. Rice is a highly accomplished and respected diplomat, scholar and author, and we are excited that she has agreed to address our graduates and guests at commencement." Even Barchi has publicly defended the decision of the Board of Governors by writing in a letter to the universitycommunity that Dr. Rice is one of the "most influential intellectual and political figures of the last 50 years." Most importantly, Barchi vigorously defends the principles of academic inquiry, arguing, "Free speech and academic freedom cannot be determined by any group. They cannot insist on consensus or popularity."

    Let us hope that as May 14 nears, Rutgers continues to stand behind its invitation to Dr. Rice.  


    Raj Kannappan is the Program Officer for Young Americans for Freedom. 

    • Readers' Comments

    • Shameful, that this group of faculty members are deemed academics. Closed-mindedness and intolerance should not be acceptable to those, who are to form the minds of our future. What they do instead is indoctrinate them into their own failed existance!
      Posted by Kirsten on 03/12/2014
    • People have many opinions/points of view. Even the author of this article, Raj Kannappan, displays a point of view on both Dr. Rice and President Obama. The opinions of all in this story fall under the Freedom of Speech.
      Posted by Doc Sarvis on 03/13/2014
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