Faculty Teach-In Will Take Place Regardless of Rice Withdrawal

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By Ariana Cerminaro

While Condoleezza Rice has bowed out of giving the commencement speech at the Rutgers University graduation ceremony later this month, a group of faculty members still plans to hold a teach-in to call attention to what they say are flaws in the selection process.

For faculty members critical of the selection, the biggest issue was their belief that she was chosen only with regards to an impressive resume and that her role as a member of the Bush administration was never taken into account. The students who will be graduating, they say, are too young to fully understand what she did as national security adviser and secretary of state.

“We’re talking about people that were 10 years old, 12 years old when this happened,” said Francois Cornilliat, one of the three faculty members who arranged a teach-in on May 6 at the Student Activity Center on College Avenue to protest Rice’s commencement appearance.

“They may not know a lot about it, but it’s not like it’s impossible to know if you care to look,” he said. “We’re just trying to teach the facts.”

The teach-in will host a keynotes speaker, Jackson Lears, and three other panels. The keynotes address will be delivered at 5:30 pm, and the panels will run from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. The first panel will be discussing torturing prisoners of war and Rice’s role in attempting to make certain processes legal, such as water boarding. The second panel will be discussing the Iraq war and Rice’s role in circulating information in order to gain support for it. The third panel will be discussing academic values and the belief that allowing Rice to attend Rutgers is against the standards that have been set for past commencement speakers.

The panels will then be followed by a showing of “Taxi To The Dark Side” and other video clips. The event will be hosting food, beverages, and live music.

The main goal is to educate students on what Rice did under the Bush administration. And that remains the plan, organizers say. According to Cornilliat, the event will still be held on Tuesday with an additional, modified focus.

“While we are obviously very glad that Rice has decided not to come… we feel that it is more important than ever to put the whole matter in perspective,” he said in an email.

The modified teach-in will also discuss “what went wrong” at Rutgers, a problem Cornilliat believes was illustrated again by President Barchi’s message addressing Rice’s decision to not attend commencement.

“While Rutgers University stands fully behind the invitation to Dr. Rice to be our commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree,” Barchi said in an email to the Rutgers community on Saturday, “we respect her decision not to participate in the upcoming Rutgers University commencement, which she clearly articulated in her statement this morning.”

Cornilliat can be reached by email at fracorn@rci.rutgers.edu. The other two faculty members, Rudy Bell and Uri Eisenzweig, can be reached at bell@history.rutgers.edu and uri.eisenzweig@rutgers.edu.

A website has also been set up for the event on Sakai. Anyone interested in accessing the site can send an email to any of the faculty members to be added to the group.

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