News

Occupy claims a victory as Rice talks elsewhere

Scores of protesters turned out in front of International House to cheer and jeer at Rice and Paulson’s absence Monday night.

More than 100 student and community protesters poured onto the sidewalk outside International House last night to “unwelcome” a talk by former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, undeterred by the fact that the talk had been postponed.

The University announced Monday morning that the talk had been postponed indefinitely due to “an unforeseen scheduling conflict” with Rice, who had notified the University on Sunday, according to University spokesperson Jeremy Manier.

Photo: Darren Leow
Students deliver a prepared statement to the Occupy Chicago General Assembly which had gathered Monday evening outside the International House.

The protests were part of Occupy Hyde Park, a local iteration of the Occupy Chicago movement organized by students in UChicago Occupy, a group on campus recently denied RSO status.

“Tonight, the 99% stood up and said that this was wrong, that we would not be silenced, that we would come here and disrupt [Rice’s] speech. And what happened? She ran like a coward! And today, the 99% are victorious,” Occupy Chicago secretary Ryan Metz said.

Organizers emphasized that the purpose of the protest was not to drive away the speakers but rather to engage them in discussion.

First-year Colette Robicheaux maintained that the protesters were not objecting to Rice and Paulson’s right to speak, but rather to the presence of two high-profile figures who have “no shortage of outlets.”

“Our feeling is that these are people who have had a microphone in their hand for the past decade, and this is a chance for us to tell them how we feel. They write books. If they want to be on TV, they are on TV. If they want articles to be published, articles are published. When we want to make our voices heard, we get taken to jail en masse,” Robicheaux said.

Reactions to the event’s postponement were varied. Metz hailed the delay in a speech, calling Rice a “war criminal” and both Paulson and Rice as “the enemy,” even as others defended the right of the invited speakers to free expression.

Some Occupy Hyde Park protesters questioned whether the University postponed the talk after discovering plans for the demonstration.

Student protesters deliver a prepared statement criticizing Henry Paulson Jr. and Condoleezza Rice at an Occupy Chicago General Assembly held Monday evening outside the International House.

“I believe the unforeseen scheduling conflict was that there was going to be a protest,” fourth-year Brita Hofwolt said.

Both Vice President for Campus Life Kim Goff-Crews and Manier said that the protest did not influence the event’s postponement. The Chicago Sun-Times blogged Monday evening that Rice had double-booked the talk with a fundraising event with Representative Aaron Schock (R-IL).

On Sunday afternoon, Goff-Crews sent a joint email with Provost Thomas Rosenbaum with the subject header “Freedom of Expression,” reminding students to “protect a speaker’s right to be heard.” Goff-Crews said Monday that the e-mail was not sent specifically in connection to the talk, but that the University knew about and had prepared for the demonstrations.

During the protest, students read a statement that said the event’s postponement showed that Paulson and Rice could not handle free inquiry.

According to organizer and Core lecturer Toby Chow, another protest will occur when the Rice and Paulson event does take place.

  • Sam

    Sickening to see uChicago students try to shut down free speech. As a uChicago alum who hires on campus, I will make sure to take down names of students that the Maroon publishes related to this movement. They will not be hired at my company, and I will send the message along to fellow alums.

    • Carol Robicheaux

      Wow – what a statement – was Joe McCarthy a personal hero of yours?

    • Podgenut

      Right, Sam, because doubtless these folks are clamoring to work in the cubicle beside you.

      Btw, it’s curious that you didn’t include your full name and place of employment. I’d expect such a proponent of free speech and free dissemination of information as yourself would be happy for his superiors and the general public to know about your upstanding recruiting practices.

    • E

      You’re doing them a favor- preventing them from working alongside someone like yourself.

      I’m curious about the fact that you consider this an effort to shut down free speech, despite the direct statements above from students that they didn’t want to shut down free speech, but engage in a dialog. We wanted to use our rights to stand on the Midway and speak. But apparently, trying to perform free speech next to someone else trying to perform free speech is an attack…

      Maybe an elementary logic class should’ve been part of the core when you graduated?

  • Rebecca Zorach

    So, Sam, you’re saying you will blacklist students by association (“names of students…related to this movement”) because some students seek to exercise their own constitutional right to freedom of speech? What evidence do you have that any of the students whose names you are taking down did anything more than attend a peaceful protest?

    I’m sure many here would be interested to know the name of any company that uses a political litmus test for hiring – why hide behind a first name only?

  • Chason Dailey AB ’11

    Yes, Occupy Hyde Park, you and the 99% are victorious. In solidarity, you have trampled upon the free speech of two individuals (who continue to deserve it no matter what platforms they have access to, as all people have a right to free speech), the right of you fellow students to hear these speakers, and sullied the spirit of academic inquiry that marks this great university. You, indeed, made your voices heard, by standing on the street and howling like monkeys instead of attending Rice’s lecture and engaging her on an intellectual level and challenging her directly.

    You should all be very proud, indeed.

    • Rebecca

      All companies use political litmus tests. All companies will Google you, and if they find something like this and happen to be a right-leaning company (I.e. most companies), it’s a big strike against you. Why is that surprising?

    • Henrietta

      Rice made the choice to cancel. Not protesters. Blaming it on anyone else but the people putting on the speech themselves is obfuscatory.

  • JS

    I support the Occupy Wall Street, Chicago, etc. etc. movements, but I find it a little bit troubling how “trendy” the Occupy movements have become. It seems like people try to start new offshoots of the Occupy movements before they have anything to protest, and subsequently strive to find something they mildly disagree with so that they can protest it. With Rice, occupy UChicago is no longer actually protesting an issue; they’ve created a meta-protest about protesting the fact that they can’t protest (which to me kind of sounds like a retroactive justification), when in the original occupies, voicing public opinion is one of the issues bound up with a set of larger issues. When we try to fit increasingly trivial protests all under the umbrella of one movement, it dilutes efficacy of the occupy movement as a whole.

  • Chason Dailey AB ’11

    Constructive engagement at its finest:

    “It looks like our Un-Welcoming campaign worked,” says Colette Robicheaux, a University of Chicago student and Occupy Chicago participant. “War criminals like Rice, and those who pushed our economy to the brink of collapse, like Paulson, should face opposition wherever they go, and be held accountable for their crimes against the people of this country. They should be in jail, not on the lecture circuit.”

  • CT

    That is absolutely reprehensible sir. Yes, indeed, please tell us the name of your company, that so willingly engages in discriminatory hiring practices, judging those with the courage to risk their futures to exercise their 1st Amendment rights. Surely it’s the sort of place no self-respecting UC alum would want to work.

  • Wesley Faulkenberg

    Hear, hear, Rebecca!

    Also, this article makes clear the purpose of the demonstration was NOT to disrupt the engagement, only to exercise free inquiry by posing questions to Rice and Paulson in a forum where they are available for questioning. The students delivered a public statement in this vein. As for the statement made by Occupy Chicago’s facilitator/moderator, he stated he had no affiliation with the University of Chicago. Thus, his only means of ‘disruption’ would be to rally outside of the International House, as this engagement was only open to students, faculty and staff.

    As far as not having anything to protest, I think it would be beneficial to look at Paulson’s resume before and after his post as Treasury Secretary, as well as Rice’s before becoming National Security Advisor and, subsequently, Secretary of State. Those who spoke last night were informed and had salient points regarding the revolving door of governmental cabinet posts with corporate and academic board posts, which create conflicts of interest and, with regards to Paulson, conduct in which many believe should be investigated and prosecuted, but, President Obama has made clear that he would not advise an investigation because it is about ‘moving forward’, which is tantamount to a pardon and smacks of special consideration and a break-down of the rule of law.

  • p

    How utterly embarrassing for the University of Chicago.

  • JC

    The speakers have a right to speak, and the protesters have a right to protest.

  • Peter Fugiel

    The University and its distinguished guests are the ones stifling debate by postponing the talk. It seems they would rather deny all students the opportunity to speak with Rice than expose her to peaceful protesters.

    How hypocritical for the administration to send out an e-mail on Sunday celebrating free expression (and threatening those who disrupt it), only to turn around Monday morning and withhold the very occasion for debate that they had so eagerly anticipated! To add insult to injury, the University offers the laughably flimsy pretext of an “unforeseen scheduling conflict” in lieu of honestly stating the publicity considerations that likely motivated Rice to withdraw.

    I welcomed the opportunity to present in a public forum the reasons why I oppose the disastrous policies Paulson and Rice helped carry out. But the University and these so-called “public servants” refused to hear my dissent. So I joined the public assembly the protesters held outside, where all were welcome to express their views–not just U of C students or supporters of the Occupy movement (I had a long conversation with an objectivist, in fact).

    The knee-jerk accusations being leveled against these protesters are misinformed at best, hypocritical at worst. If you believe the University’s lame excuse, then the protests had nothing to do with the event being postponed. If you don’t, then you must recognize that Rice and/or Paulson refused to speak in front of students who oppose their politics. They are the ones who stifled debate.

  • Don’t Blacklist Me, Bro

    @Sam: wow, that’s a little nuts. Is it really befitting for someone of your lauded education and business status to go around trying to threaten and intimidate college students into silence, while not making any attempt at a productive discussion? That kind of cowardly, crony-ish behavior is pathetic, and does a lot more to damage UofC’s reputation than any protest ever could. Whatever you want to say about the protesters or their cause, at least they have some integrity, whereas you just sound like a petulant child.

    I think Peter has it right, and expressed his argument far better than the (mostly) vituperative haranguing that preceded it. Perhaps it would be helpful to reiterate yet again that the protesters had no intention of shutting down the event, that this was purely a fabrication meant to spin the debate into one about Rice and Paulson’s personal rights to free speech. It was also designed to conveniently justify taking disciplinary action against those who take issue with the speakers’ politics. It might also be helpful to point out that the First Amendment, the article upon which all of our free speech rights in the United States are predicated, not only grants free speech to all citizens (not just the wealthy and powerful), but guarantees the right of the people to peaceably assemble. One does not negate the other.

    However, that others are making this about the rights of Paulson and Rice to free speech at all (with the blatant intention of suppressing the free speech of many, many others) evinces a highly distorted conception of what free speech is. Paulson has bought himself an institute here, paying perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars to set up a thinktank that will be billed as a non-profit and maintain only a dubious association with the university community. There is quite literally nothing free about purchasing academic legitimacy and this kind of podium from which to speak. You want to take a noble stance in his defense by excoriating some people standing across the street with signs?

    Similarly, hyperbolic language and silly posturing only serve to identify a reactionary speaker who is ignorant of the facts (“trampled?” Really?) That the protesters “trampled upon the free speech of two individuals” is patently ridiculous- at the time the event was called off, nothing had happened yet! Thus it was only the expectation that this lecture would draw public criticism that most likely motivated the cancellation. That people can turn this around and make naive, caustic and self-righteous assertions about protesters limiting the free speech of figures like Hank and Condi is totally amazing.

  • SS

    As an alum, I am filled with joy that UChicago students are demanding change.

    Blame Paulson + Condi (the latter a war criminal) for not being able to take 2 minutes of ‘mic check.’ Don’t blame the students for wanting to be heard by some of the people who destroyed their country.

  • L.C

    The Occupy protestors completely violated condi and paulson’s right to speak, demonstrated utter disregard for the spirit of intellectual debate and discussion and deprived interested students/community members the opportunity to hear two individuals who have had a strong impact on the world.
    There are a vast number of people in the city and on campus who would have LOVED the opportunity to hear paulson and condoleeza; But instead of appreciating the fact that university actually has the resources to bring such high profile speakers on campus, and letting others enjoy this opportunity, the occupy protestors, with their exceptionally poor approach, managed to demonstrate a complete disrespect for the spirit of intellectual debate and inquiry that is central to the University of Chicago.
    I empathized with the cause earlier, but the way the protestors conduct themselves makes me wish this movement was over.

    • AMT

      HOW did the protesters “completely violate” Condi and Paulson’s right to speak? I seriously want to know. By planning a protest across the street? Do you think these two have never been protested before? Do you honestly believe that expressing a counter opinion is the same as depriving interested students/community members of an opportunity? Who are you to say that peaceful protest is not an equally legitimate means of free speech? Can you tell me what the protesters should (realistically) have done that would not have been an “exceptionally poor approach” in your supreme opinion? Keeping in mind that Hank and Condi were never going to say anything new, have no reason to take any of your well-worded questions seriously, would essentially have been talking from the same script we have all heard them rehearsing countless times over the last ten years. If you feel like you missed something big by not attending this event, I suggest youtube.

      Also, by the way, this event was highly exclusive and required a UC ID to get in. So all of the nonsense about “people in the city” and “community members” is uninformed and inappropriate here. And again, the University chose to cancel the event, ostensibly due to a scheduling mix-up, before anything had happened or anyone had been protested. You’re basically scolding people for something they never had the chance to do.

  • Chicken Little

    I throw my full support behind the protesters. More power to them!

  • E

    I can’t defend every statement made by every member of the movement, but I can say this- as a member of the protest, no one was more upset than I was that the talk was canceled.

    Protest is worthless if no one sees it. I didn’t- and I think many feel the same way- want to drive Rice and Paulson off of campus. Not coming to campus allows them not to see protestors. And, as the old adage says- out of sight, out of mind. Skipping the appearance altogether is one more step by members of the political elite that distances themselves from a large section of the population that is unhappy with the job they are doing. That sort of disconnect between citizens and leadership is a large part of what Occupy is protesting against.

    If indeed it was the choice of the speakers to cancel the appearance, that was no victory for the protest. They will have other venues to speak, and likely they will have other chances to speak at the university, perhaps on a weekend when Occupy Chicago is occupying elsewhere. The only thing that happened here was that protesters were deprived of a chance to speak to the very people they have a problem with. Occupy wasn’t going to stop Rice and Paulson from speaking to the people of the University. They just wanted an opportunity for the people of the University to speak to them too.

    So, as an occupier, here’s my message to Rice and Paulson:

    Come back. Talk. Listen.

    Let’s have a dialog.

  • Joe

    Wow, people are upset over the fact that Condi + Paulson’s ‘free speech was violated’. Why don’t we talk about the human rights that Condi + Paulson violated?

  • Luc Gendrot

    Robicheaux sounds like a very intelligent woman. Kudos to all of the Uchicago students for their willingness to stand up for what they think is right, and to stand up to what they think is wrong.

    Cheers.

  • The Ghost of Milton Friedman

    Scandalous! Hank Paulson is a good man who showers free money on corporations. My only complaint with Condoleezza Rice is that she did not prop up more dictators! To the rabble rousers who have taken over the institution I once called home: The free market will seek its revenge on you. As you can see above, your names are noted and you are hereby banned from the world of finance forever!

  • Frenchy

    Dayum Gurl, you’s a good writer huh? Writin about occupying stuff all day long! Them editors at the maroon better be glad the have such a talented, educated, and beautiful person workin for them.

    Write on, biznatch.

  • Anyone Else Read the Headline?

    Do all the occupy supporters claiming that they wanted the dialogue and that the trampling of free speech was perpetrated by the speakers who canceled the event not realize that by referring to the cancellation of the event as a victory for the protesters (in the Metz quote and carried up to the headline) they admit, or at the very least lead others to believe, that shutting down the dialogue was their goal.

    Is it not reasonable for people to think that something you celebrate as a victory was something you wanted.

    • E

      Again- not all protesters feel that it was a victory. That’s the entire point I was trying to make.

      Occupy is not a political party. It is not a hierarchy. What Metz says isn’t equivalent to the beliefs of the movement at large, and certainly not to all of it’s members.

  • AMT

    Imagine a simple series of events: citizens plan a protest of two high-profile speakers in an exclusive lecture that gets postponed at the eleventh hour. Rather than gathering in a pitiful show of crestfallen disappointment that, indeed, two of the most powerful, guarded and destructive people in the world didn’t want to talk to them, they decide to frame the situation as an instance of the tyrannical plutocrats being threatened by the democratic voice of the people (knowing that this was probably not (entirely) what happened). One speech of many is taken out of context and a student journalist sensationalizes the story. Cue the reactionary backlash of people who will do anything and use any excuse to serve and preserve the privilege of a small elite. The result: a debate about protesters being imprudent and compromising the “free speech” of Condeleeza Rice and Henry Paulson, rather than about anything substantive or important.

    How about we bicker some more about the protesters’ evil intentions. Let’s just completely ignore why they were protesting, or the possibility that there might be something fundamentally wrong about Henry Paulson buying an institute at the University of Chicago and holding a lecture series with guest speakers like Rice. Since all voices are equal except when combined, it makes sense that one person should be given the forum and captive audience that Paulson would have had in order to discuss why this might be wrong. So until any of you claiming so pompously to honor free speech and condemning so vociferously a few people trying to exercise theirs make a real call for alternative perspectives to be heard, no one should take your criticism too seriously or be made to feel guilty by your reproach. For you, free speech clearly only applies to individuals with the money and influence to purchase it, and is meant to be heard only by those able and willing to perpetuate the speakers’ ideas. It’s kind of sad that the best education money can buy still produces such callous, weak-minded arguments.

  • GW

    O Condoleezza, where did you go?
    Off to a fundraiser with Paulson in tow?
    Gadaffi would approve your brazen escape
    and wish he had avoided a terrible scrape