Stanford Students, Profs Protest Rumsfeld

This story was written by Patrick K. Fitzgerald, The Stanford Daily
Stanford students, faculty and community members rallied in White Plaza Thursday afternoon to protest the appointment of Donald Rumsfeld to the Hoover Institution as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow, marking the one-year anniversary of his resignation as secretary of defense.

Over two months have passed since Hoover Director John Raisian announced Rumsfeld's one-year appointment, and the controversy surrounding the fellowship has not abated. Raisian appeared before the Faculty Senate Thursday to address concerns over the appointment. The Undergraduate Senate is also expected to weigh in on the debate in the coming weeks -- senators tabled a resolution on Tuesday for further revision to a bill addressing the issue.

Dozens turned out to protest Rumsfeld's appointment yesterday, criticizing his record as a principal architect of the Iraq war and challenging his credentials for a Distinguished Visiting Fellowship. Some branded the former defense secretary a war criminal, while others said he simply lacked the intellectual background required for the appointment.

"The goal here today is to make it quite clear that Rumsfeld doesn't belong at Stanford," said Gail Sredanovic, M.A. '65, one of seven "Raging Grannies" who sang a 10-minute set of anti-war songs. "It's fine to allow him to come and speak here, but to appoint him a 'Distinguished Visiting Fellow' is an insult to all of us."

Students and faculty members gave speeches during the hour-long rally with performances by the seven-piece Raging Grannies and the Stanford Theatre Activist Mobilization Project (STAMP) interspersed throughout. Several of the speakers stressed their support for free speech and academic freedom and said their opposition to the appointment was more than political.

"No one is opposed to having him speak," said Todd Davis, associate director and lecturer in the symbolic systems program. "We want him to be accountable for his term as secretary of defense."

"It's not his politics," added Hilton Obenzinger, associate director for honors writing, "but his practice of undermining everything a university should be about."

The debate over Rumsfeld's appointment has called into question the relationship between the conservative-leaning Hoover Institution and the University at large. Such disputes roiled Stanford during the mid-1980s when a student and faculty revolt effectively derailed plans to place the Ronald Reagan Presidential library on campus.

Rumsfeld, who may never set foot on the Farm, was appointed to serve on a task force pertaining to national security, ideology and terrorism in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He is a long-time supporter of the Hoover Institution, having served as a member of the Hoover Board of Overseers and as a member of the executive committee of the board.

Many other prominent conservatives, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and General John Abizaid have held fellowships at the Institution, which, like all academic departments, can make temporary visiting appointments without University oversight.

Many who have spoken out against Rumsfeld have also called for the Institution to be further integrated with the University. Some signaled out Hoover because they said its role on campus was uniquely political.

"We need to challenge the assumption that Hoover can make these appointments in our name without recognizing that these appointments are political," said Computer Science Prof. Eric Roberts.

A self-proclaimed "product of the 1960s," Roberts extolled the students in the crowd to get involved and make their voices heard.

"You have that power," he said.

Nearly 4,000 students, faculty and alumni have signed a online petition against the appointment, and the anti-Rumsfeld movement has become a growing source of student activism this year.

"One of my greatest fears is getting and becoming apathetic," said undergraduate Ahlia Kattan. "Let's try our best not to forget."

But not everyone found the rally to be the best forum to weigh in on the Rumsfeld debate.

"I think there are serious questions to be asked about his performance," said Tristan Abbey '08, "but that's for more serious discussion."
© 2007 The Stanford Daily via U-WIRE