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Boston College faculty object to honorary degree for Rice

BOSTON --Nearly 100 faculty members at Boston College have signed a letter objecting to the college's decision to award Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice an honorary degree.

The letter entitled "Condoleezza Rice Does Not Deserve a Boston College Honorary Degree," was written by the Rev. Kenneth Himes, chairman of the department of theology, and the Rev. David Hollenbach, who holds the Margaret O'Brien Flatley chair in the department, and sent to all faculty inviting their signatures.

The theology department said nearly 100 have signed it, but declined to release their names, The Boston Globe reported Wednesday.

Rice was announced Monday as commencement speaker for the May 22 ceremonies. Hollenbach said he has no objection to Rice being a speaker, but said she does not deserve an honorary degree.

"On the levels of both moral principle and practical moral judgment, Secretary Rice's approach to international affairs is in fundamental conflict with Boston College's commitment to the values of the Catholic and Jesuit traditions and is inconsistent with the humanistic values that inspire the university's work," the letter said.

The letter also cited Pope John Paul II's objection to the Iraq war.

The debate over the Rice invitation underscored tensions between liberal and conservative Catholics.

"This is the only time these people have cited Pope John Paul II on anything," said the Rev. Paul McNellis, who is an adjunct professor in the philosophy department.

Some faculty members said having such a notable speaker is an honor for the university. Political science professor Marc Landy said the letter was a "grotesque mistake" and sent his own letter asking colleagues not to sign the Himes-Hollenbach letter.

"This isn't about agreeing or disagreeing with Condoleezza Rice," Landy said. "She is the secretary of state of the United States, and there is a presumption in favor of according a warm and dignified reception to arguably the third most important executive officer."

The State Department would not comment on the letter or say whether Rice had accepted the invitation. According to BC, however, she has confirmed.

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