NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has backed out of delivering the commencement address at Rutgers University following protests by some faculty and students over her role in the Iraq War.
Rice said in a statement Saturday that she informed Rutgers President Robert Barchi that she was declining the invitation to speak at the graduation.
"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 school's board of governors had voted to pay $35,000 to the former secretary of state under President George W. Bush and national security adviser for her appearance at the May 18 ceremony. Rutgers was also planning to bestow Rice with an honorary doctorate.
But some students and faculty at New Jersey's flagship university had protested, staging sit-ins and saying Rice bore some responsibility for the Iraq War as a member of the Bush administration. Barchi and other school leaders had resisted the calls to disinvite Rice, saying the university welcomes open discourse on controversial topics.
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