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Monday, April 28, 2014

RUTGERS UNIVERSITY STUDENTS PROTEST COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER CONDOLEEZZA RICE

Writer: Christopher Etienne
Writer: Ijeoma Unachukwu
Editor: Justin Hockaday

Approximately 50 protestors arrived at the historic “Old Queens” office building of Rutgers University President Robert Barchi Monday afternoon to contest the institution’s decision to invite former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as the 2014 Commencement speaker.

The university revealed Rice’s status as the keynote speaker in late February.

With plans to give her an honorary law degree and $35,000 for her appearance, the announcement sparked political controversy and debate on campus due to her role in the Iraq War.

“Robert Barchi is not listening to the student population; he is supposed to represent us…” said Rutgers University student Nisa Haider, “he is turning a deaf ear toward the cries of us Rutgers students.”

Regardless of Barchi’s intentions or hearing capabilities, he was not physically present in his office for the duration of the protest, but security was.  

Denying protestors’ access to restrooms as well as refusing them re-entry once they left the premises of the Old Queens office, campaigners found the conditions surrounding the demonstration less than desirable.

However, this protest was just the latest extension in the Rice selection controversy as some faculty members, who chose to remain anonymous, voiced their dissatisfaction with the selection process.

Stating, “Usually there is an invitation to the administration to nominate a speaker. However, this year the only thing that we received was a notification that Condoleezza Rice was already selected... No need to make a nomination.”

Activists from the student organization “Students for Justice in Palestine” echoed these sentiments regarding the lack of diplomacy in this year’s selection, and demanded a platform to speak with President Barchi. 

Protestor Sherif Ibrahim agreed, “We want a meeting with Barchi … and we want it to happen while we’re in the building.”

Nonetheless, because students were prohibited re-entry to the Old Queens office after leaving, many went hours without eating until the evening approached and officials announced that the building would close.

After some deliberation, students vacated the premises to avoid facing prosecution.

Despite the adversity, these Rutgers students adamantly insisted that they will continue to contest Barchi’s decision until their cries are acknowledged.

In a statement sent from Barchi to the student body regarding the issue of Rice’s selection earlier this month, he stated the following:

“We have even heard from high school students who have written to say that they would withdraw their Rutgers applications if we rescind – or fail to rescind – our invitation to her, [Rice]” Barchi wrote.  “These are the kinds of exchanges that every great university welcomes.  Like all vibrant intellectual communities, Rutgers can thrive only when it vigorously defends the free exchange of ideas in an environment of civil discourse.”

Yet, some would argue that this “free exchange of ideas” Barchi referenced has a cost. 


With only a few short weeks until the university’s commencement ceremony, it will be interesting to see how much each faction is willing to pay in order to defend its ideas surrounding this issue.  

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