Thousands of Stanford University students, faculty and alumni are protesting the conservative Hoover Institution’s decision to appoint former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as a visiting fellow.
The Stanford-based Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace announced earlier this month that Rumsfeld, who served as President Bush’s defense secretary for almost six years, would join a task force that will focus on issues related to “ideology and terror” in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
An online petition contesting the appointment on the grounds that Rumsfeld clashed with the university’s core values had more than 2,500 signatures Friday.
“He contradicts the fundamental standards of the university, which are order, morality, personal honor and most importantly, the rights of others,” said Pamela Lee, a Stanford art history professor who helped write the petition. “This person has played a critical role in a disastrously failed military policy. He has aggressively abused international law.”
Rumsfeld resigned from the Bush administration after the November 2006 elections amid widespread dissatisfaction over his handling of the Iraq war.
The controversy highlights the strained relationship between the conservative Hoover Institution, a well-funded public policy research center founded in 1919, and the Palo Alto campus’ more liberal faculty and student body.
The Hoover Institution has hosted many prominent conservatives as visiting fellows including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Secretary of State George Shultz and retired Army Gen. John Abizaid though few have generated as much opposition as Rumsfeld.
Last week, a group of professors began circulating a petition objecting to the former defense secretary’s appointment, citing his role in overseeing the military occupation of Iraq and crafting policies that led to the abuse of prisoners at Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
Lee said protesting faculty members are calling for greater transparency in how the Hoover Institution makes such appointments. There are also discussions about holding a mock trial of Rumsfeld and organizing demonstrations after classes begin next week, she said.
Hoover would not comment directly on the petition. In a statement announcing his appointment, director John Raisan said that Rumsfeld “has had immense experience in public service and has much to contribute to society as a result.”
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