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Condoleezza Rice: Rutgers address would be 'distraction'

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for TIME

Following protests from Rutgers University students and faculty members, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced this morning that she will not deliver the school's commencement address.

"Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families," Rice said in a statement reported by The Associated Press. "Rutgers' invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time."

Rice acted as national security adviser and secretary of state during the years of George W. Bush's presidency; some in the Rutgers' community staged sit-ins and other protests against the speaker selection because of Rice's role in the Iraq War. Rice did defend her record even as she announced her decision not to address Rutgers' graduates, saying she supported "America's belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas."

No word yet on who will replace Rice as commencement speaker at Rutgers' May 18 ceremony.