After university officials extended the invitation to Rice, protests broke out on campus because of her role in the Iraq War.
Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has officially declined an invitation to deliver the commencement address at Rutgers University due to student protests on campus. Rice, who currently works as a professor of political science at Stanford University, did not want to be a distraction for the Rutgers community on such a special occasion.
“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families,” said Rice in a statement obtained by USA Today. “Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.”
Rice was also slated to receive an honorary degree at the ceremony.
After university officials extended the invitation to Rice, protests broke out on campus because of her role in the Iraq War. Students even staged sit-ins protesting her appearance on campus and the $35,000 speaking fee for her commencement address. Rutgers administration declined to withdraw the invitation as they felt Rice’s presence would provide an arena for healthy debate and an exchange of ideas.
Rutgers President Robert Barachi released a statement on Saturday defending the invitation.
“While Rutgers University stands fully behind the invitation to Dr. Rice to be our commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree, we respect her decision not to participate in the upcoming Rutgers University commencement, which she clearly articulated in her statement this morning,” he said.
The university has not made an official announcement about who will replace Rice for the commencement address on May 18.