Rutgers University of New Jersey invited Dr. Condoleezza Rice to give the commencement address at the graduation exercises of 2014. Immediately, some members of the faculty and several students mounted a protest against the invitation that led Dr. Rice to cancel her plans to address the graduation class.
Now, Dr. Rice is one of the most distinguished women in the nation. She rose from humble beginnings in the racist South to become the first black female National Security Advisor and later the first black woman to serve as Secretary of State of the United States.
Along this path she proved herself an accomplished concert pianist; gained her Ph.D. in record time; gained the reputation of being an expert in Russian affairs; served as Provost of the great Stanford University in California (rated as 9th best University in the nation) and as scholar in her own right. Her credentials are so stellar that only fools would not want to hear from such an accomplished woman within a university setting.
However, some students and faculty of Rutgers did not want to hear from her. One wonders why they are so afraid to hear from such a distinguished personality.
The reasons the protesters gave for their stand against Dr. Rice are rather telling. They say it’s because, while serving in the Bush administration, she participated in plans that led to the Iraqi war and the water boarding associated with that administration, she should be considered a war criminal. That designation, by students and faculty of the New Jersey college— not by any established international tribunal— warranted her being banned from the school’s campus.
Colleges used to be considered places where diverse thoughts and opinions were debated. Varied philosophies and approaches to issues were given open and vigorous consideration, and the force of the arguments and the logic on which they were grounded, decided the case. But not these days! The leaders of the modern university do not seem ready to welcome any ideas, approaches or persons who take different stances. Such are not welcome. They are not allowed the stage to state their case. There must be no opposition and anyone holding an opposite view or approach is banned, booed, shunned and denied the space to express their views.
This is indeed a sad state of affairs. The university had no problem whatsoever in inviting Snookie to come on campus. They even paid her $30,000.00! Snookie could be welcomed and paid to address a university audience! But Dr. Rice, no way! That contrast speaks loudly about what we have become as a nation in our race to the bottom. In so many areas of life, excellence and accomplishment are being replaced by mediocrity and low-life stuff!
Are we correct in this assessment? If we are correct, then, as a nation, we need to work vigorously to turn things around before the nation ‘bottoms’ out. That work must begin very soon, because when a university can boldly choose Snookie— beach girl— over Condoleezza Rice, Ph.D.— Scholar in Russian, Concert Pianist, National Security Advisor to a President, Secretary of State, Provost of a top 10 University and Overcomer of Jim Crow-ism— we are in real deep, deep stuff!