Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has withdrawn from speaking at the Rutgers University commencement ceremony amid protests from faculty and students about her selection.
In a statement posted to her Facebook page Saturday morning, Rice said she was “unwilling to detract” from the commencement ceremony by becoming a distraction.
“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.
“I am honored to have served my country. I have defended America’s belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas. These values are essential to the health of our democracy. But that is not what is at issue here. As a Professor for thirty years at Stanford University and as it’s 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.”
Earlier this week, a group of Rutgers students staged a sit-in in the campus administration building to protest Rice’s selection as commencement speaker. She was set to receive an honorary Rutgers degree. Citing her role in the George W. Bush administration and involvement in the lead-up to the Iraq War, some faculty also protested.
Rutgers President Robert Barchi had defended her selection early in the controversy, but he lamented this week that it was “distracting from what great things we’re doing as a university.”