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Professors, students protest Rumsfeld's appointment

  • Story Highlights
  • Stanford: Well within the Hoover Institution's right to appoint Rumsfeld
  • Rumsfeld will spend a year as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow
  • Opposition: Online petition has been signed by more than 3,500
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By Christian L. Tom
Special to CNN
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CNNU campus correspondent Christian L. Tom is a junior at Stanford University. CNNU is a feature that provides student perspectives on news and trends from colleges across the United States. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or the schools where the campus correspondents are based.

STANFORD, California (CNN) -- Students and professors at Stanford University are protesting Donald Rumsfeld's appointment to a campus think tank, saying the former defense secretary does not uphold the "ethical values" of the school.

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Donald Rumsfeld has been appointed to the Hoover Institution, a think tank at Stanford University.

Shortly after Rumsfeld's appointment was announced in September, professor Pamela Lee began an online petition from faculty members opposed to bringing him to the Hoover Institution.

Since then, the petition has gained more than 3,500 signatures, including nearly 300 faculty members from such diverse disciplines as law, computer science, electrical engineering and drama.

"We view the appointment as fundamentally incompatible with the ethical values of truthfulness, tolerance, disinterested inquiry, respect for national and international laws, and care for the opinions, property and lives of others to which Stanford is inalienably committed," the petition reads.

"As word of the letter got out, my inbox was flooded with messages from professors, students, staff and alumni asking to sign on," said Lee, a professor of art history.

The petition's signers include hundreds of Stanford students in addition to the faculty.

"He's a war criminal," said Sam Dubal, one petitioner, who also created a Facebook group called "Rumsfeld -- You Are Not Welcome at Stanford!"

"He's not worthy as an established member of Stanford," Dubal said.

Despite the protests, school officials say that it is well within the Hoover Institution's right to appoint Rumsfeld.

"There are lots of temporary appointments made around the university," said Jeff Wachtel, special assistant to Stanford president John Hennessy. "Departments have the right to invite people to campus in a variety of capacities."

Rumsfeld's one-year appointment as Distinguished Visiting Fellow places him on a task force on terrorism and ideology. He will be joined by current Hoover Fellow George Schultz, secretary of state under Ronald Reagan.

Despite being housed in a tower on the center of campus, Hoover has only loose affiliation with the university. Meanwhile, supporters of Rumsfeld's appointment say that his presence on campus will help foster academic dialogue and fuel positive political discourse.

The outcry against Rumsfeld follows last April's attempt by President Bush to visit campus. Bush planned to meet with Fellows at the Hoover Institution but was blocked by protesters. His meeting was later moved to Schultz's nearby house.

"Many of us believe that Donald Rumsfeld, in his role as secretary of defense, has behaved in ways that are dishonorable, disgraceful and always disingenuous," said Dr. Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus of psychology.

"Rumsfeld authorized a list of interrogation methods that violated the Geneva Convention and the Convention against Torture used on detainees at Guantanamo Bay ... and Iraq's Abu Ghraib Prison," said Zimbardo, whose most recent book, "The Lucifer Effect," finds that given the right "situational" influences, anyone can be made to participate in violent and depraved acts.

Lee said her position does not discourage debate or public exchange of ideas.

"Let me stress that the petition objects to Rumsfeld's appointment as Distinguished Visiting Fellow, an appointment we find without merit," Lee said. "In fact, there is nothing in the language of the petition that says Mr. Rumsfeld is forbidden to air his views at Stanford or is not welcome for a public lecture or open forum."

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But not everyone disagrees with the appointment.

"Personally I disagree with his politics," said Brett Hammon, a political science major. "But at the same time, I'm not sure I think it would be prudent for the university to refuse hiring him just because most students disagree with his politics. I know I would hate it if I went to school in Texas and the university refused to hire a prominent liberal politician just because most of the student body was conservative." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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