Last November, I published a commentary on the double standards and hypocrisy of the No Rice protests. I was then criticized for being too preemptive, and supposedly misrepresenting them, accusations that I believe are facetious and exemplify the double standards employed by No Rice. I debated waiting before penning this commentary – perhaps No Rice would act after all. However, I realized delay allows the inconsistency between their actions against Dr. Rice and inaction toward President Obama.
To clarify my previous editorial, it is my opinion, and that of the Rutgers University College Republicans, that we respect the Office of President of the United States and President Obama's right to speak at Rutgers’ 250th anniversary commencement. We will not allow political disagreement to interfere with the freedom of opinions and ideas expected of a university environment. Furthermore, it is a mark of maturity to respect others, even those with whom we may vehemently disagree. What we oppose is the double standard practiced by affiliate organizations and members of No Rice, protesting one commencement speaker based on policy but not another with similar policies, and reneging on promises of impartial humanitarianism. This is not an issue of ideology or the targeting of specific individuals, but a blanket grievance against those who choose to act in an inconsistent manner when confronted with the disparity of their actions.
Let us remember what No Rice said about President Obama speaking at commencement. Statements by their leaders include “I don’t care if it's President Obama drone bombing [...] or if it’s Condoleezza Rice [...] what is wrong is wrong” and “the president gets no pass from me or anyone who was involved in the No Rice protests.” By virtue of their own commitments, they must protest against President Obama’s commencement speech or step down from their moral high horses.
In April 2014, affiliate organizations of No Rice wrote a letter to President Robert L. Barchi arguing the University should consult with groups whom Dr. Rice’s actions may have affected because they felt the invitation was “insensitive.” Yet when they had the opportunity to express dissent, they issued no response to the public invitation from President Barchi, nor the one from Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA), nor the one from the New Jersey Congressional delegation; for a speaker against whom they committed to protest. If these attempts to seek approval from the student body do not represent "acknowledgement of the feelings" of those who may feel insulted by the selected speaker, then there is nothing No Rice will find acceptable. It appears the only purpose for their letter was to establish false grounds for the protest of Dr. Rice, not to enact legitimate change in the speaker selection procedure.
No Rice criticized my previous editorial for being too preemptive, which may be a legitimate attack had they not needed to move the factual goalposts. Even before my editorial was written, and long before the response, there were formal invitations for President Obama to speak at commencement, as mentioned in the preceding paragraph. I have to applaud this criticism for claiming these invitations did not exist. The mental gymnastics required to ignore not just one but three invitations represents a concerted effort to distort the truth and shut down critique without legitimate discussion. By claiming they could not act until the announcement, they attempt to excuse action until the latest possible moment, perhaps in the hope we might forget their promise of non-partisan protest.
No Rice also attempted to obfuscate their movement’s original purpose. They allege their only concern was the honorary degree and honorarium provided to Dr. Rice, not the commencement address going as far as to say “Rice is free to speak at the University whenever she wants.” This is a clear falsification of the documented purpose of No Rice, which numerous sources corroborate as rescinding the invitation for Dr. Rice to speak at commencement. The previously mentioned letter states they wanted "her invitation to be rescinded." To me this seems more than just wanting an honorary degree revoked. Their verbal protests primarily comprised of language directly opposed to Dr. Rice, rather than just the honorary degree. Further, one of the leaders of the No Rice protest, Sherif Ibrahim stated “[Rice] should not be held up as the standard to which graduating students should aspire, which a commencement speaking invitation directly implies.” It appears they are now trying to backtrack their words and retroactively change the purpose of their original protests in an attempt to save face and discard blame from themselves, pointing it towards others for supposed misrepresentation.
From its inception, No Rice was designed to abridge Dr. Rice’s freedom of speech; a rather ironic use of their own right to speak and protest. Any reasonable observer could conclude that the motivations of No Rice appear to be tainted with partisan bias. This double standard is detrimental to the University community, and precludes real political dialogue among the student population. We hope those involved in perpetuating this hypocrisy apologize for misleading the University community and for the unfair standard to which they held Dr. Rice.
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It is interesting that the faculty and students are so eager to push for President Obama as the commencement speaker for Rutgers 250th class. Not two years ago, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was invited to speak at commencement, but after faculty and student protests, she withdrew. Those protesters accused her of war crimes, supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, indefinite detention and former President George W. Bush's drone program. Instead of addressing the validity of these claims, I will offer a few comparisons.
President Obama launched ten times the number of drone strikes as President Bush. These strikes have killed six times as many people, and twice the civilians of those under President Bush. President Obama more than doubled the number of troops in Afghanistan shortly after taking office, after promising to end both wars. The indefinite detention center at Guantanamo Bay remains open, despite repeated promises to the contrary.
There is an obvious double standard, on almost every issue the protestors had with Dr. Rice, President Obama has continued or expanded those same policies, and yet the President gets a pass where Dr. Rice got none. Furthermore, in contrast to Dr. Rice who served as Secretary of State at the behest of President Bush, President Obama could have addressed many of the aforementioned issues through Presidential powers.
Sherif Ibrahim and Carmelo Cintron, leaders of the “No Rice” protest claimed that if President Obama attempted to speak on campus, they would protest, with Ibrahim saying, “I don’t care if it's President Obama drone bombing ... or if it’s Condoleezza Rice ... what is wrong is wrong.” Cintron also stated that he would not be okay with the President speaking on campus. Where were they when the President spoke at Rutgers—Newark, where are they now? Where are those who sat-in at Barchi’s office, or those who claimed to be nonpartisan in their protest?
They are nowhere to be found, now that the speaker’s political affiliation aligns with their own. Identifying as a Liberal is enough to protect from criticism in today’s college environment. They labeled Dr. Rice as a war criminal, killer and lawbreaker, but apparently none of those labels applies to the President, reinforcing the double standard between Liberal and Conservative. This is the latest example of the targeted silencing of Conservative viewpoints on college campuses.
The Daily Targum once wrote, "Rice is a former politician, and we can’t really ignore her controversial career. Do the positive aspects of her personal accomplishments really outweigh the destruction of war she contributed to during her political career?" Can we ignore President Obama's similarly “controversial career” due to his political party? Given the attitude on campus, apparently so.
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