Condoleezza Rice has pulled out of delivering the commencement address at Rutgers University after students and faculty protested, the Associated Press reports.

The school's board of governors had voted to pay $35,000 to the former secretary of state under President George W. Bush and national security adviser for her appearance at the May 18 ceremony. Rutgers was also planning to bestow Rice with an honorary doctorate.

But some students and faculty at New Jersey's flagship university had protested, staging sit-ins and saying Rice bore some responsibility for the Iraq War as a member of the Bush administration. [Rutgers President Robert Barchi] and other school leaders had resisted the calls to disinvite Rice, saying the university welcomes open discourse on controversial topics.

Rice today released a statement via Facebook, explaining her decision to not attend the graduation. Rice said she was honored to serve her country, but did not want to be a distraction to the ceremony.

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Here is Rice’s full statement:

Barchi said the school stands behind their invitation to her, but respects Rice’s decision to decline.