By Cathy Burke
Nearly 200 University of Minnesota professors and students are protesting Condoleezza Rice's scheduled speech Thursday on growing up in the segregated South, as they target her service in the George W. Bush administration.
Some students even want her arrested, the campus newspaper Minnesota Daily reported Wednesday.
The former secretary of state and national security adviser — the daughter of middle-class Alabama schoolteachers who went on to graduate from college at age 19 and rise to the highest levels of the U.S. government — was invited to participate in a lecture series about civil rights.
But those objecting to the appearance say it's her foreign-policy politics they want to discuss, MinnPost.com reported.
In a letter, 192 professors condemned Rice for her part in "substantial violations of civil liberties and civil rights that were carried out in the name of prosecuting the War on Terror."
"[L]et's not ignore her record," the letter says. "As National Security Adviser in the critical period of 2001-05, Dr. Rice played a central role in the design and implementation of the Administration's policies, which legitimized the use of torture."
They also are balking at Rice's $150,000 speaking fee, which is being paid by private sources.
"That seems wildly inappropriate for any speaker, especially in a civil-rights/economic-justice situation," one professor complained, MinnPost.com reported.
Last month, the Faculty Council at Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus asked the New Jersey state university to yank its invitation for Rice to deliver its commencement speech, National Review noted.
Activists also organized a "Drop Dropbox" drive after the file-sharing site named Rice to its board, it reported.
Humphrey School Dean Eric Schwartz defended Rice's appearance.
"The Humphrey School welcomes the conversations this invitation has generated; we value public discussion and dialogue," he said Tuesday, MinnPost.com reported. "We strongly believe that our School's namesake, Hubert Humphrey, would feel the same way."
According to the campus paper, the University of Minnesota’s Students for a Democratic Society wrote a letter to campus police to urge Rice's arrest.
"From time to time, truly dangerous people do come to our campus," the students wrote. "We would like to alert you to the upcoming presence of such a person on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus."
The letter goes on to provide a description of the former secretary of state to help officers identify her as “a 59-year-old African American woman, 5'8″ tall, and will be present on Northrop Auditorium's main stage at the aforementioned time . . . If you need a picture of her, one will be provided, but it might just be easier for you to access one online."
The group also had tried to get the university's senate to retract Rice's invitation, but it was voted down, the Star Tribune reported.
University President Eric Kaler called opposition to Rice "particularly ironic" given the nature of her speech: overcoming the discrimination she experienced in her childhood, National Review reported.
"That Civil Rights Act, and the struggle against racism in this country, has often been driven by powerful words that would not have been heard but for our American tradition of a robust and fiercely protected right of free speech and academic freedom," Kaler wrote April 3 on the university's website.
"We can't have true academic freedom at the University of Minnesota by denying a stage to those we disagree with or disapprove of."
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