COLUMBIA, S.C. More than 200 Furman University students and faculty are objecting to the school's first visit by a sitting U.S. president, criticizing how the Bush administration handled the Iraq war and environmental issues.
President Bush is scheduled to give the graduation speech May 31 at this conservative-leaning school with Baptist roots located in the traditionally conservative upstate region of South Carolina.
The 222 students and faculty signed and posted a statement on the school's Web site titled "We Object." It cites the war in Iraq and the administration's "obstructing progress on reducing greenhouse gases while favoring billions in tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies that are earning record profits." The school has 2,625 undergraduates.
"We are ashamed of the actions of this administration. The war in Iraq has cost the lives of over 4,000 brave and honorable U.S. military personnel," they wrote. "Because we love this country and the ideals it stands for, we accept our civic responsibility to speak out against these actions that violate American values."
A White House spokesman said Monday that the administration supports the protesters' rights to speak out, and that the goal of Bush's visit is to "wish the graduates well."
Furman, located in Greenville, was founded in 1826 in the free church Baptist tradition, which emphasizes religious freedom for its followers and others. University president David Shi said in a statement that the dispute provides "opportunities to reaffirm the university's foundational commitment to the free exchange of ideas."