A Welcomed Return

On the wall of Encina Hall photographs of Political Science professors stare out at passing students. Among the collection is a worn black and white snapshot of former Stanford Provost, National Security Advisor, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Though Secretary Rice has been absent from Stanford for nearly nine years, her legacy—like her photo—still asserts itself in the daily life of Stanford students. As Provost, for example, she ended the contentious multicultural “Cultures, Ideas, and Values” program and introduced the more rigorous Introduction to Humanities (IHUM).

Now the former Provost promises to return to the university that she helped shape. Speaking with the Stanford Report recently, she beamed, “Stanford is my home. I’m comfortable on the campus. I hope pretty soon to get out among students. I love going over to the houses or the dorms and having dinner and having a question-and-answer session afterward. I think that would be a very good way to re-engage with the campus.”

The Stanford Review, on the grounds of academic freedom, supports the full and open re-engagement of Secretary Rice back into the Stanford community.

We believe that students and faculty will benefit enormously from her eight years of singular insights. It is rare that a university—a place of distant and detached observation—can share in the experiences of a history-maker, a person immersed in the messy and difficult decisions of leadership. Stanford should embrace this opportunity.

Denying her re-engagement because of her policy decisions will set a dangerous precedent. What professors will want to assume policy leadership positions if there is the risk of punishment upon return to campus? Condoleezza’s colleague, Professor Michael McFaul, is now President Obama’s senior director at the National Security Council for Russian affairs. If he makes controversial decisions, will activists also demand an end to his tenure?

Secretary Rice’s time in the Bush White House was, indeed, controversial. But seemingly none of her actions were illegal—either under American law or Stanford regulation.

The latter point is particularly important when considering her future at Stanford. The Stanford Faculty Handbook maintains that faculty cannot be disciplined except for plagiarism and the breaking of rules “in association with… academic duties and responsibilities.” Her White House duties were not academic. Moreover, as a scholar, she is of the highest integrity.

It is obvious, then, that the opposition to her return is purely political. The black, skull and bones flag labeled “Condi” in White Plaza, the screening of an anti-Condi movie by Stanford Amnesty International, and the latest Stanford Progressive all demonstrate this fact.

The charges leveled against Condoleezza Rice by The Stanford Progressive are particularly politicized.

In “Prosecuting Condi,” graduate student Daniel Matthews considers “various legal possibilities” in the prosecution of Secretary Rice. Mr. Matthews recommends what amount to political show trials.

In his mind, we are guilty of war crimes simply by association. He argues, “Those of us who study at the same institution have a special responsibility to act; otherwise, we become associated with the crimes, ourselves.”

So, to ease our collective conscience, Matthews suggests that we either “hold faculty disciplinary hearings” or that the “Stanford community to conduct its own public trial.”

In an accompanying Progressive editorial, titled “Rice’s Return to Campus Sparks Outrage Over Torture,” undergraduate Gus Jewell writes that “Rice and others will almost certainly never face legal responsibility in an American court. However, her status as a tenured professor at Stanford University should be called into question.”

Yet the tenure system is deliberately meant to prevent the politicized firing of faculty. Tenure safe guards the values of a liberal education.

Secretary Rice herself demonstrates these values. Recently on the television program “The View,” she made this amply clear: “Look,” she said, “I am sure there will be dissertations written about mistakes the Bush Administration made. I will probably even oversee some of them at Stanford University when I go back.”

Just this short quote speaks volumes about what Secretary Rice’s commitment to academic inquiry, intellectual curiosity, and openness to multiples sides of the story.

Are opponents of her return committed to the same spirit of openness?

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