Condoleezza Rice’s visit sparks protest: Students and faculty are asking the University of Minnesota to revoke her April 17 speaking invitation


Members of the University of Minnesota community are voicing disapproval of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s campus visit next month, citing her involvement in the George W. Bush administration’s wartime policies.

Students for a Democratic Society requested the University Faculty Senate vote Thursday on a resolution asking the Humphrey School of Public Affairs to cancel Rice’s invitation.

“If the University is trying to represent itself as a global institution and really have its presence on a global scale, you have to think about how other governments and countries are going to view us,” SDS member Nick Theis said, noting Rice’s role in approving torture during her time as secretary of state.

The ticketed event at Northrop Memorial Auditorium on April 17 is free and open to the public. Rice’s lecture is a part of Humphrey’s Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series, an annual event that aims to spark conversation by bringing “provocative” speakers to the University, said Tammy Lee Stanoch, vice president of Corporate Communications for Carlson Companies.

“Controversy is in the eye of the beholder,” Stanoch said. “There are some people that would think that other speakers are controversial because they don’t align with their own particular political views.”

The Carlson Family Foundation will cover the $150,000 cost for Rice’s visit, which Stanoch said is not an unusually high price tag for this type of speaker.

Humphrey spokesman Kent Love-Ramirez said Rice will talk about overcoming adversity as an African-American woman who faced discrimination growing up in the southern U.S. The topic is consistent with the school’s yearlong series “Keeping Faith with a Legacy of Justice: The 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

“We firmly believe in [students’] right to protest and welcome it as an extension of the public discussion,” he said.

College Republicans Co-Chair Adam Motzko said he thinks the University should welcome guests with all viewpoints and political affiliations.

“Just because some people might disagree with some of the things [Rice] said or has said in the past, that doesn’t mean she should be disqualified from speaking at the University,” he said.

Motzko said the opposition to Rice’s visit isn’t as widespread as it appears, and many students are excited about the event.

“We should allow people from different backgrounds, different religions, different political ideologies — [invite all of them] to campus, and we shouldn’t restrict their speech on our campus,” he said.

While acknowledging that the University will likely not cancel Rice’s visit, Theis said it’s still important that his and other opponents’ messages are heard.

“It’s more of a symbolic way to generate support and bring people out to this protest,” Theis said, “because we really need to be having a discussion about what it means to bring someone like this here.”

Related story: COMMUNITY VOICES | Condoleeza Rice and the Humphrey School: It’s not about free speech, by Chuck Turchick (March 2014)