DENVER — Students, faculty and alumni at the University of Denver plan to protest when the university's international studies school presents an award to former president George W. Bush next week.
Bush will be recognized Monday evening at a fundraising dinner in Denver both for his service as president as well as efforts to fight HIV, cervical cancer and malaria in Africa. The Josef Korbel School's decision has outraged many at the school who fault the 43rd president for starting the war in Iraq and allowing the use of torture on prisoners.
Bush will have a public discussion with the school's dean, former Iraq ambassador Christopher Hill, during the private event at a downtown hotel.
Students and graduates say the award will hurt the international standing of the school, which is named after Josef Korbel, the father of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and is known for its focus on human rights.
"He's tarnishing Korbel's name in an attempt to rebrand Bush as a positive character," said Sara Fitouri, a Korbel and law student at the university who plans to attend the protest.
University spokeswoman Kim DeVigil said the university is committed to the open exchange of ideas.
"A university is a place where civil discourse should occur and the fact that a former two-term president is coming to the university is an honor," she said.
Representatives from the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and the George W. Bush Presidential Center didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.
At least some opponents said they don't object to Bush visiting and speaking, just to receiving an award which endorses his legacy. Carol Hubbard, a graduate who lives in Springfield, Va., hopes for an eleventh hour change of heart by the school but also diplomatically suggested changing the award's name to the Global Impact Award, rather than the Global Service Award.
The original announcement from the school said Bush would get the Improving the Human Condition Award. DeVigil said that was just a placeholder name until award's name was decided. She said the change wasn't a concession to opponents.
The name of the award given changes each year. Past recipients include Ban Ki-moon, United National secretary-general, Condoleeza Rice, Bush's secretary of state and Albright.