U of M faculty sign petition against Condoleezza Rice speech - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

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U of M faculty sign petition against Condoleezza Rice speech

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

This week, hundreds of faculty members from the University of Minnesota signed a petition to state their opposition to the impending visit of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Rice is expected to visit the campus on Thursday to deliver the Distinguished Carlson Lecture, an annual function at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

The event is always endowed by a private gift from the Carlson Foundation, but this year's lecture is part of a series entitled "Keeping Faith with a Legacy of Justice"  -- but many faculty members don't have faith that Rice can do justice to the theme.

"We have no objection to Dr. Rice visiting our campus. Indeed, as strong advocates of the right to free speech, we welcome anyone -- including Dr. Rice -- into our community to engage in an open exchange of ideas," the petition, which can be found online, reads in part. "In that very spirit of free expression, however, and in our commitment to the principles of truth and the common good that are inscribed above the entrance to Northrop Auditorium where Dr. Rice will speak, we object to the circumstances of this particular visit."

The series of speeches aims to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the American Civil Rights Act, which was passed in 1964. Yet, although Rice is unquestionably an accomplished African American woman, the faculty members who signed the petition do not believe the advancement of civil rights are a significant part of her legacy. Quite the contrary, in fact.

PETITION: RICE PLAYED ROLE IN LEGITIMIZING TORTURE

Although they expressed gratitude to the Carlson family and foundation for their support and said Rice will be welcome to speak on campus, critics who signed the petition say "let's not ignore her record."

Rice was a leading national security official with the Bush administration, and critics contend she therefore bears responsibility for the violations of civil liberties and civil rights that occurred in the War on Terror.

"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 by redefining it to include only practices so severe as to induce organ failure," the petition reads.

The critics site waterboarding as an example of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" that had previously been defined as torture but were then utilized in the War on Terror. Additionally, the petition points to Rice's continued defense of such techniques since her departure and even criticized the denial of visas to numerous foreign scholars who had ideological disagreements with the Bush administration.

SPEAKING FEE 'OVERSIZED, A DUBIOUS PRIORITY'

The petition also takes aim at the "human rights implications" of the high speaking fee Rice is expected to collect, stating that it is inconsistent with the civil rights movement's emphasis on economic justice in a time of austerity and economic hardship.

Although it's funded by a private donation, the $150,000 speaking fee that will be paid to Rice has generated a lot of buzz.

A University spokesperson confirmed that fees paid to previous speakers do vary, and that Rice was booked through the Washington Speakers Bureau. Additionally, the selection committee said it believes her fee is consistent with those commanded by speakers of her stature.

In 2006, Colin Powell received a fee of $100,000 for delivering the Distinguished Carlson Lecture.

HUMPHREY SCHOOL 'WELCOMES' DISCUSSION

On Wednesday afternoon, Fox 9 News obtained the following statement regarding from the Humphrey School regarding the controversy:

"The Humphrey School welcomes the conversations this invitation has generated; we value public discussion and dialogue. We strongly believe that our School's namesake, Hubert Humphrey, would feel the same way.

Dr. Rice is one of about 20 speakers of differing perspectives that the Humphrey School will have hosted over the course of the year to reflect on progress achieved and challenges ahead in this 50th anniversary year of the Civil Rights Act."

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