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Sasha Westerman helped Mary Daly, a former Boston College professor, to the podium at a rally yesterday on the campus.
Sasha Westerman helped Mary Daly, a former Boston College professor, to the podium at a rally yesterday on the campus. (Matthew J. Lee/ Globe Staff)

Efforts mount against BC's Rice invitation

200 students, faculty hold rally

Critics of Boston College's decision to invite Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to speak at graduation stepped up their efforts yesterday with a rally, and a group of faculty members drafted a letter to the college's president, the Rev. William Leahy, asking that the invitation be withdrawn.

But Leahy, addressing a regularly scheduled faculty meeting, ''made it very clear that it was not going to be rescinded," said a faculty member who attended the meeting. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he described the meeting as tense. ''He does not admit any room for reconsideration," he said.

Almost immediately after the college announced last week that Rice would speak at the May 22 graduation and receive an honorary law degree, two top theologians circulated a letter of opposition among the faculty. As of yesterday morning, about 200 members of the 1,000-person faculty had signed the document, which stops short of asking the president to rescind the invitation.

Soon afterward, a group of students started collecting signatures on their own petition demanding the invitation be rescinded, while another group of students circulated a counter petition lauding the choice of speaker.

At the rally yesterday, attended by about 200 students and faculty, some wore white armbands that read ''no honorary degree" under the word ''war" surrounded by a red circle with a slash through it. They listened to nearly 20 professors and students who spoke out against the war and the college's decision's to ask Rice to speak.

Former Boston College professor Mary Daly, a feminist theologian who clashed with the college over her refusal to admit men to her classes, made a rare appearance on the campus to speak.

''It is traumatic for me to be here," she told the Globe. ''It's the first time I've come to campus since they kicked me out in 2001. But I'm here because I am so angry. My anger brought me here."

But other students were angered by the protest.

''I am a Democrat and I don't agree with the war, but I have no problem with her coming here," said Margaret Reed, a senior political science major. ''She is the secretary of state, she is an influential person, a black woman who has risen to power, and there is no reason to protest. I am so frustrated by this."

According to Jack Dunn, director of public affairs at Boston College, Leahy told the faculty at the meeting yesterday that the college was honoring Rice ''because of her personal accomplishments."

Faculty and students, however, say they will plan more activities leading up to graduation day.

''We have a good discussion going on," said Rev. David Hollenbach, one of the two theologians who wrote the first letter of opposition to circulate among faculty. ''There has been more talk about the Iraq war and what can be done about it in the past days than there has been in a long time."

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