(CNN) - Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is backing out from delivering this month’s commencement address at Rutgers University in New Jersey after her slated appearance resulted in protests on campus about her Iraq War record and controversy within the community.
“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families,” Rice said statement posted on her Facebook page Saturday. “Rutgers' invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.”
State lawmakers, students and faculty had called on Rice’s invitation to be rescinded numerous times since the University announced her selection.
In a resolution sent to the University’s governing board in February, the Rutgers University New Brunswick Faculty Council argued that a public institution of higher learning should educate its students about past events and “not pretend they never took place.”
“Condoleezza Rice, as National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, played a prominent role in his administration’s efforts to mislead the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the existence of links between al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime,” the resolution said.
Republican New Jersey Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini criticized their protest in a statement, calling it “appalling and an embarrassment to our state.”
The school newspaper, The Daily Targum, published an editorial also condemning the selection, saying that while it is impressive that the University was able to recruit such a high-level official to address the students, they “can’t really ignore her controversial career.”
According to the school newspaper, nearly 100 students congregated during a Rutgers University Senate meeting Friday to question the University President about the issue and to protest.
The University had stood by its selection of Rice amid the controversy, with a spokesman telling New Brunswick Today in March that, “Dr. Rice is a highly accomplished and respected diplomat, scholar and author, and we are excited that she has agreed to address our graduates and guests at Commencement."
Rutgers President Robert Barchi said in a statement in response to Rice’s withdrawal that while they respect her decision, the University still fully stands by her invitation and that further details about the commencement will be announced in the coming days.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie reacted to Rice's statement tweeting, "As usual a class act by a great public servant."
Rice congratulated the future graduates and wished them and their families luck in her statement.
As a professor of thirty years and university official, Rice wrote, she “understand(s) and embrace(s) the purpose of the commencement ceremony” and is “simply unwilling to detract from it in any way.”
The former Secretary of State was set to receive $35,000 and an honorary doctorate for her address.