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How Rutgers students — including Republicans — are reacting to Obama visit

President Barack Obama speaks to reporters about the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at Omni Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage, Calif.,
President Barack Obama speaks to reporters about the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at Omni Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage, Calif., (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The news spread like wildfire Thursday on social media: President Barack Obama will deliver the commencement address at Rutgers University this year. For the most part, the announcement was well-received, leading university officials to believe the commander-in-chief will get a warm welcome when he arrives at graduation.

The mostly positive reaction was a far cry from the outrage that erupted from some faculty and students groups when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was invited to deliver the address in 2014. Protestors objected to Rice’s involvement in the Iraq War and she eventually backed out.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie has also said it was a “great honor” for the state to have Obama the address.

“I thank the president for his willingness to come to New Jersey and honor Rutgers,” Christie said.

Which Rutgers speaker said it? Snooki or Obama? (QUIZ)

The student Republican group on campus, meanwhile, said they will not protest just because they disagree with Obama’s politics — and took a swipe at those who protested Rice.

“In the University environment one is expected to confront differing opinions and beliefs, and part of becoming an educated adult is respecting others, even when we may vehemently disagree,” the group stated. “That is why we will not conduct any physical protest activities such as those done when former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice was announced as commencement speaker.”

The RUCP said the people who did choose to protest Rice made the argument that it was “for humanitarian reasons; such as the number of drone strikes and civilian casualties during the Iraq War, and indefinite detention programs” but “by comparison, President Obama ordered more than ten times the number of drone strikes as President Bush; these strikes killed six times as many people, and more than double the civilians as those under President Bush.”

Greg Trevor, a spokesperson for the university, said that so far, the news about Obama has been met with enthusiasm by the Rutgers community.

“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” Trevor told New Jersey 101.5.

The state university, which celebrates its 250th anniversary this year, will host its commencement May 15 at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway. Officials say about 12,000 graduates from 22 academic units from Rutgers-New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences will receive their degrees during the ceremony. Obama, who has delivered about three or so commencement addresses every year during his presidency, will be one of two speakers at the ceremony. The other, journalist Bill Moyers, will also  receive an honorary doctorate degree in law during the event.

Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at toniann.antonelli@townsquaremedia.com, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.

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