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Apr 29, 2014 11:45 AM EDT

Rutgers Students Protest Condoleezza Rice's Commencement Speech With Sit-In Outside University President's Office

A group of Rutgers students staged a sit-in to protest former Secretary of the State Condoleezza Rice's appointment as this spring's commencement speaker.

According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger, about 50 students entered the Rutgers University Old Queens administration building and did not leave. The students stationed themselves on the staircase leading to the second floor, where university president Robert Barchi's office is located.

The school named Rice the commencement speaker nearly two months ago and several faculty members and students have been vocally against the decision since. She is scheduled to give an address and receive an honorary doctorate at the ceremony on May 18. She will also be awarded a $35,000 honorarium.

The school did not respond for comment regarding the protestors, who held signs with messages such as "No honors for war criminals," "War criminals out" and "RU 4 Humanity?"

Rutgers community members have also started a hashtag on Twitter, #NoRice.

Barchi responded to the protests surrounding Rice's scheduled address in a an open letter to the Rutgers community last month. He said he will not "disinvite" Rice to speak and is welcoming of the open conversation.

"Like our fellow citizens, you and I - our colleagues - have deep and sincerely held beliefs and convictions that often stand in stark contrast to others around us," Barchi wrote. "Yet, we cannot protect free speech or academic freedom by denying others the right to an opposing view, or by excluding those with whom we may disagree. Free speech and academic freedom cannot be determined by any group. They cannot insist on consensus or popularity."

The Ledger previously reported state Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-Morris) and other N.J. lawmakers were openly critical of the faculty group's opposition to Rice's appointment.

"The faculty's self absorbed view of geopolitics reinforces their elitist academic persona," he said in a statement in early March. "These learned professors think they know what is best for all of us. They stand as self imposed guardians of the truth - the truth as they see it."

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