Pick over what’s left of Rutgers University’s reputation, and you’ll quickly find that a pair of professors are largely responsible for blocking former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from addressing the university’s commencement. They are a professor of poetry and a professor of history.
The first is Distinguished Professor François Cornilliat. The Frenchman says that his “research mainly focuses on the evolving role of poetry and poetics in the rhetorical culture of the Renaissance.” That’s ironic, given how the Renaissance was a time when Europe awakened from the medieval period of superstition to develop the scientific method and examine ideas on evidence. Professor Cornilliat’s actions in blocking Rice’s speech indicate that he has no interest in ideas other than those he already agrees with, whatever contrary evidence may exist. He also wants others blocked from hearing evidence that might not comport with his own worldview. He may consider himself a Renaissance man, but his actions place him more comfortably among the medievalists.
His professor page at Rutgers is about as gassy as one might expect. It claims that the Frenchman has “worked on the use of verbal ornament in the epideictic verse and prose of the so-called ‘Grands Rhétoriqueurs,’ on the conception(s) of truth, praise, pleasure, beauty and persuasion developed by later poets from Marot to the Pléiade, and on the experience of ‘poetic failure.’ My last book studied the notion of subject matter in Renaissance poetry from Petrarch to Ronsard, which was another way to examine how poetry manages (or fails) to promote itself as a specific art; areas of investigation included genre theory and practice, the antagonistic roles of glory and love, and the poet’s actual or imagined relationship with the prince.”
He has apparently spent some time in culinary training. He sure knows how to build a word salad.
Professor Cornilliat distinguished himself a few years back when SUNY was facing budget cuts. In an open letter he titled “SUNY Under Siege,” the Frenchman called the university’s decisions to cut some departments “brutal,” and ironically called on the university to exhibit “human decency and institutional fairness.” Those are values that Professor Cornilliat did not extend to Professor Rice.
The other professor who led the protests against Rice, the first black woman in history to represent American foreign policy to the world, is Distinguished Professor Rudolph M. Bell. Bell is a history professor, who writes “I work in all aspects of Italian history but with particular attention to religion, gender, popular culture, mysticism, and the history of the book.”
Bell hasn’t left quite the hypocritical paper trail as his colleague, though both obviously share an intolerance for views they do not happen to agree with.
He is the author of a book, called Holy Anorexia, which seeks to establish a link between the Christian idea of fasting for the sake of spiritual cleansing, and the very secular idea of tossing one’s already eaten cookies for the sake of trying to look like a skinny supermodel. I don’t even have to read beyond the blurb to know that Professor Rudolph really isn’t onto anything. The connection is facile, at best.
Neither Cornillat nor Bell evidently had any problem with their university, which shut its doors to a former secretary of state because they wanted it to, opening those same doors — and the university’s wallet, to the tune of $32,000 — to Jersey Shore’s Snooki.