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Nearly 200 U of M faculty members oppose Condoleezza Rice speech

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Nearly 200 professors at the University of Minnesota say they object to an upcoming speech by former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

Rice is scheduled to speak Thursday at the Carlson Family Stage about human rights, as part of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series. The series of events, entitled "Keeping Faith with a Legacy of Justice," comes on the 50th anniversary year of the American Civil Rights Act. The U says she will share “her perspectives on the progress achieved and challenges ahead in efforts to promote civil rights for all Americans.”

And that's where opponents of the speech have a problem – not with the fact that Rice is speaking on campus, but that she's speaking about human rights.

The activists outline their opposition in an online petition, initially signed by 192 staff members.

"While Dr. Rice is an accomplished African-American woman, the advancement of civil rights ... is not central to her legacy," the petition says. "Indeed, as a leading national security official during the entirety of the Bush administration, she bears responsibility for substantial violations of civil liberties and civil rights that were carried out in the name of prosecuting the War on Terror."

The petition continues, outlining what they feel was Rice's role in implementing "enhanced interrogation" techniques (such as waterboarding) and a policy of rendition (individuals are arrested by U.S. forces and brought to a third-party country known to practice torture).

According to MinnPost, Humphrey School Dean Eric Schwarts said in a statement Rice is one of the 20 or so speakers that will offer a perspective on civil rights as part of the series.

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

The Star Tribune reports the group Students for a Democratic Society, which previously attempted to get Rice's speech canceled, sent a letter to the school's police chief that warned of a dangerous person coming to campus.

The group lists what human rights statutes it feels she's violated, then goes on to say:

"Dr. Rice is a 59-year-old African American woman, 5’8″ tall, and will be present on Northrop Auditorium’s main stage at the aforementioned time ... We are confident that you will at least bring Dr. Rice in to be questioned. We hope, however, that you do not employ the interrogation techniques she so willingly approved ...

"Thank you very much for helping to make our campus safer for all of us."

The group had previously tried to get Rice's speech canceled, citing her record as secretary of state and also objecting to the $150,000 speaker fee she's being paid (which, the university notes, is coming from private donations). One of the faculty members who opposed Rice's appearance introduced a resolution in the University Senate to rescind the invitation.

Last week the University Senate voted 122-21 against the resolution.

The Minnesota Student Association came out against the push to cancel Rice's speech, the U of M newspaper the Minnesota Daily reports.

“The Minnesota Student Association believes in a public University where all ideas, political ideologies, viewpoints, races, genders, (and) religions are all welcome at the University of Minnesota,” MSA At-Large Representative Adam Motzko said.

And Andrea Cournoyer, a spokeswoman for the Humphrey School of Public Policy, previously told the Star Tribune canceling the speech wouldn't be consistent with the university's goal of promoting free speech.

The event is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday.

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