Rutgers Names Former NJ Governor as 2014 Commencement Speaker, Rice Withdraws


New Jersey's Rutgers University has named former state Governor Thomas H. Kean as 2014 commencement speaker at the school's May 18 graduation ceremony.

Kean, a Republican, served as the 48th New Jersey governor from 1982 to 1990. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Kean was named co-chair of the "9/11 Commission."

"Gov. Kean's career as a public servant, educator and statesman speaks to the civility, integrity and vision that we hope will guide our graduates as they pursue their careers or further their studies," Rutgers President Robert Barchi said in a statement.

The announcement has come two days after former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, withdrew her name from commencement duty amid backlash by students and faculty over her role as principal U.S. foreign policy adviser to former President George W. Bush during both Iraq (2003) and Afghanistan wars.

"Her actions in the Bush administration involved lying to the American people, leading to a war that destroyed nations and hundreds of thousands of lives, and enacting policies of enhanced interrogation, more commonly known as torture," said Carmelo Cintron Vivas and Amani AlKhatatbeh, spokespersons for the #NoRice movement, told My Central Jersey. "We do not believe such an individual should be held by our school as an example to be honoured.".

The Rutgers College Republicans, Eagleton Undergraduate Associates and Greek Life at the University expressed their disappointed over Rice's withdrawal as commencement speaker. In a joint letter, they said that the University succumbed to pressure from a small group of students.

"A university should be a place where free ideas are exchanged and a diversity of opinions are encouraged," wrote Donald Coughlan, a Rutgers student and chairman of the New Jersey College Republicans.

Apart from questioning her role as national security adviser, the protests also questioned the procedures adopted by the university while appointing Rice as commencement speaker. Pete McDonough, vice president for public affairs at Rutgers, said that both Rice and Kean were chosen without proper consultation from faculty or students.

Rice was set to receive an honorary doctor of laws at the upcoming commencement ceremony. Announcing the cancellation of her commencement address on Facebook Post, Rice said that her selection had caused a disturbance within the university community and was reluctant to spoil the commencement ceremony, a festive time for the graduates and their families.

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