Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is no stranger to criticism, given her place in political history. So when she was slated to speak at the University of Buffalo, student members of a socialist organization took her and the school to task.
The campus organization, the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) criticized the university’s decision to invite Rice to speak on Wednesday. According to Newsweek, Rice was the final speaker in the University’s Distinguished Speakers Series that included, former Vice President Joe Biden, Lisa Genova, neuroscientist and author of Still Alice and Pulitzer Prize-Winning reporter Ronan Farrow.
YDSA members released a statement condemning Rice and labeling her as a “war criminal” and “lier.”
“Rice is a torturer, a liar, and a war criminal,” YDSA said.
The University responded to the criticisms by defending their decision and claiming that the university embraces diverse ideals.
“As a public university, it is a fundamental value of UB that all members of the campus community and invited guests have a right to peacefully express their views and opinions, regardless of whether others may disagree with those expressions,” the university said. “This includes the right of protesters to oppose the views or opinions of others, but not in such a way as to limit or prevent the speaker’s freedom of expression or interfere with university operations.”
YDSA treasurer, Sean McDonough maintained to the organization’s criticisms and told Newsweek that though they were not trying to undervalue her importance as the first Black woman to hold the positions of Secretary of State and national security advisor, representation should not make people overlook her controversial decisions.
“Representation is extremely important and we absolutely think that there should be more African American women in power,” McDonough said. “However, Rice was a public official for eight years and the decisions she made were devastating to the lives of so many people. It would do a disservice to both her and her victims to reduce her time in office to her race and gender.”
Rice has come under fire during her time with the George W. Bush administration and her policies regarding torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. According to Newsweek, Rice gave the green light to “alternative interrogation methods” that included waterboarding. There are also claims that Rice lied about weapons of mass destruction so that the Bush and other military officials could enter into an already pre-planned war in Iraq. Rice continues to deny these claims.
“I hope that people come away from this with an understanding, that as should be the case, war was for us a last resort,” Rice told NPR in 2011.
Rice was able to speak at the University without incident, but YDSA passed out fliers during her speech.