Three Reports on the Rutgers May Teach-In on Condoleezza Rice
By Deanna Gorzynski, World Can't Wait volunteer
The palpable excitement and satisfaction of the Rutgers students success
with exiling war criminal Condoleezza Rice from their commencement
exercises didn’t take long for me to see. Hours before the teach-in I was
at a Staples making copies for World Can’t Wait posters, some 50 miles
north of Rutgers, and as I left a young employee ran up to me excitedly, “She’s
not speaking at Rutgers, we put an end to it!”
Especially considering this success, with Rice no longer being honored I
wondered how well attended the teach-in would be. The answer? The space
was bursting at the seams with a highly engaged and interested audience, mostly
students. The panelists represented different subjects and came to the
issues discussed from different angles. They took questions from anxious,
passionate students and answered them thoroughly.
My favorite was when one of the professors explained that having Rice
honored would be against the University policy which she recited. The one
section that stood out was that a candidate would need to “have made a
lasting positive impact on the world.” Needless to say groans and quiet
pained laughs were heard.
World Can’t Wait was one of only two groups to set out information for
action to those who attended this event. We were welcomed with enthusiasm
and quite a few of our materials were handed out. We hope that
the empowered students, professors and others in attendance will help this
historic week to translate into more action now and produce lifetime
activists. We also hope that those who took took our materials will
reach out to World Can’t Wait as a vehicle for positive change
By Carol Dudek, World Can't Wait volunteer
I was so impressed by the teach-in. People of all ages from all kinds of
backgrounds and countries, over 200 at least. I met a middle-aged couple,
not connected to the university, who were ecstatic that people were
I spoke with one of the students, John, who was delighted to report that
about 50 students took over a building, while other people rallied outside
in support of those inside. I gave him a hug when he expressed such joy that
their actions forced a change in the university's history!
There was a panel on the Iraq war and the aftermath, a panel on
university/faculty accountability and a student panel. Participants had
backgrounds in history, anthropology, human rights law, science, etc.
The chief concern of the accountability panel was the outrageous, unilateral
action of the governor's board to award Rice an honorary degree and pay her
$35,000 to give the commencement address! The panel brought forward email in which
the board clearly decided to pull the wool over the public's eyes by
dropping any mention of Rice and conducting negotiations in secret. They
spoke a bit about the history of the fine alumni of Rutgers and its earlier
involvement in the Vietnam antiwar movement, the civil rights era of the
60's when Newark was turned inside out and the second wave of feminism.
Of course, the main objection against having Rice represent the
university's mission was that she was guilty of war crimes and waging
illegal war. The panel quoted her many lies and belligerent statements in
pushing for combat, and the fear tactics she used like naming aluminum
tubes nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
Most impressive to me was the passionate desire of the panelists to protect
the legacy of the school they devoted their careers to. They asked what
education is for. Is it merely to turn out cogs in a wheel, unthinking,
unknowing? Or is there an obligation to improve our society, know all we
can and use our knowledge for our better good? They asked how a war
criminal responsible for the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives can reflect
the humane goal of their university.
Another panel focused on the use of torture by the United States and the
maze of legal maneuverings and euphemisms designed to minimize US policy,
for example "enhanced interrogation" rather than "torture." The media, an
accomplice in putting forward government policy, denied the deadly
consequences of waterboarding. Journalist Christopher Hitchens is one
example of a media spokesman who repeatedly stated that the practice was
not torture. He volunteered to undergo waterboarding to prove his
point but opted out after only a few minutes of enduring the procedure!
By Rudy Bell, François Cornilliat and Uri Eisenzweig - professors who organized
the opposition to Rice
The teach-in was successful beyond anything we had anticipated.
At first, Condoleezza Rice’s decision to decline Dr.Barchi’s invitation made some of
us wonder if the teach-in should be held at all. This position was not unreasonable.
However, we concluded that the need remained for a scholarly exposition of Dr.
Rice’s responsibility in the lies leading to the Iraq war and the implementation of
the unprecedented torture policies under the Bush administration.
The teach-In was needed from a pedagogic perspective, for our students. Going
forward with it was also a response to President Barchi’s
extraordinarily tone-deaf statement, after Dr. Rice’s announcement, last Saturday,
that “Rutgers University stands fully behind the invitation to Dr. Rice to be our
commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree.” “Rutgers University?”
“Fully?” Really?? So much for the 376 faculty members who signed the petition. So
much for the resolutions and statements passed by Faculty Councils of New Brunswick,
Newark and Camden. So much for the hundreds of students who cared enough to
organize, speak up and demonstrate.
Dr. Barchi’s statement came out at 11:40 a.m. One hour later we confirmed that the
teach-In was on.
It was an event that will be remembered because there has not been one like it for a
very long time. The lecture room of the Student Activities Center was packed by a
crowd of more than two hundred students and faculty members, many sitting on the
floor, others standing anywhere they could, all listening with the utmost attention
to the poignant speech of human rights attorney Jumana Musa, then to the
illuminating exposés of our panelists, to whom Rutgers University – the real
Rutgers – is forever indebted. And we all stood up to applaud the six students who
represented the “No To Rice” movement that organized the demonstrations of the last
ten days: the enthusiastic commitment they expressed to humanistic values was a
reminder that there is real hunger among our students for more knowledge of
history, of foreign cultures, of the very notion of “culture,” of political science,
of economics, as well as a deep interest in questions related to ethics, public
policy and the place of media in our culture. Students like these give a special
meaning – and responsibility – to our teaching and research. Regardless of any
artificial “strategic plan,” with students like these there is a future for our
The event, that began at 5:30 p.m. concluded at 11:30, with the screening of
excerpts from the 2007 film “Taxi to the Dark Side,” followed by a moving discussion