Stanford University has released a statement deploring censorship in response to the petition protesting the one-year appointment of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to the Hoover Institution.
The statement from Jeff Wachtel, senior assistant to President John Hennessy, reads:
"As is the case with all temporary appointments, this one was made by the individual academic center. Neither the president nor the provost is consulted on such appointments, and this one was no exception. We appreciate that there are a range of strong opinions regarding the current administration and those serving under President Bush, but we believe that such views are best explored in an environment of open discourse and debate, not one of censorship."
The petition being circulated in the Stanford University community protesting Rumsfeld's appointment to the Hoover Institution as a "distinguished visiting fellow" reached more than 3,400 signatures today.
Since many students and faculty are just arriving back on campus for the beginning of fall quarter classes this week, the petition effort may pick up steam. "It's going to explode," said Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus of psychology and one of the organizers of the petition effort.
As secretary of defense, Rumsfeld was one of the architects of the Iraq war.
"We view the appointment as fundamentally incompatible with the ethical values of truthfulness, tolerance, disinterested enquiry, respect for national and international laws and care of the opinions, property and lives of others to which Stanford in inalienably committed," the petition reads.
The petition drive started when a small number of faculty became concerned after hearing of Rumsfeld's one-year appointment to advise a Hoover Institution task force on ideology and terrorism, Zimbardo said.
"We don't believe what Rumsfeld has done in the last five years qualifies him as a distinguished anything," Zimbardo said.
It's not a free speech issue, Zimbardo added, saying Rumsfeld is free to say anything he wants.
But a second concern is that because Rumsfeld is being appointed to a position at the Hoover Institution, many view that as being appointed to a Stanford position. The Hoover Institution is located on the Stanford campus but is an independent think tank and research institution. Some Stanford faculty members hold a duel appointment at the Hoover Institution.
"He would have never been appointed to a Stanford position," Zimbardo said. "We would love to invite him to campus and I would love to debate him."
Hoover Institution Director John Raisian told the New York Times that "I appointed him because he has three decades of experience, of incredible public service, especially in recent years as it relates to this question of ideology and terror."