Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice backed out of her speech at Rutgers. / Ben Margot, AP
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has backed out of her role as commencement speaker at Rutgers University following protests by some faculty and students over her role in the Iraq War.
These students and faculty staged sit-ins and said Rice bore some responsibility for the Iraq War as a member of the Bush administration.
Rice announced her decision in a statement Saturday.
"Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families," Rice said. "Rutgers' invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time."
The controversy started months ago. Rutgers President Bob Barchi wrote on the school's official Facebook page in March: "Faculty, staff, students, alumni, and a range of individuals from across the nation have written both in strong support of, and in opposition to, Condoleezza Rice as our commencement speaker. 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."
At that time he noted that the school would still pursue Rice as the commencement speaker.
"Whatever your personal feelings or political views about our commencement speaker, there can be no doubt that Condoleezza Rice is one of the most influential intellectual and political figures of the last 50 years," he wrote.
The New Jersey-based school's board of governors had voted to pay the former secretary of State under President George W. Bush and national security adviser $35,000 for her appearance at the May 18 ceremony.
"As a Professor for thirty years at Stanford University and as it's former Provost and Chief academic officer, I understand and embrace the purpose of the commencement ceremony and I am simply unwilling to detract from it in any way," Rice wrote on Facebook. "Good luck to the graduates and congratulations to the families, friends and loved ones who will gather to honor them."
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