Commentary: Obama gets it wrong on Rutgers’ speaker protest

By Charles G. Häberl

President Obama struck a discordant note when he raised the specter of campus “political correctness” and attacked the “fragility” of the student body at Rutgers’ commencement on Sunday.

Like many others attending the commencement, I was inspired and enthralled by Obama’s address to the Class of 2016. However, as a faculty member who was supportive of the principled, student-led opposition to the selection of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as the 2014 commencement speaker, I feel obliged to address some of Obama’s regrettable misperceptions.

The movement opposing Rice as commencement speaker was never about denying her a platform to speak. That would have been an impossible goal. As one of the most powerful women in the history of American politics, Rice enjoys a level of influence and publicity today that few if any of the students opposing her selection will ever attain.

Instead of simply trying to silence a voice they found objectionable, the students opposing Rice’s forum raised relevant issues about the selection process and proposed an alternative debate forum that could have provided for critical engagement.