The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church



Archdiocese property piques BC's interest

By Marcella Bombardieri and Jenna Russell, Globe Staff, 12/7/2003

Cramped Boston College has long been eyeing the Archdiocese of Boston's property across the street. So when the archdiocese announced last week that the cardinal's residence and 28 acres will go up for sale, faculty and staff at BC began drawing up a dream list for what they'd do with the Italianate palazzo and all that green space. The ornate, four-story mansion might be a little plush for dorms or office space, but "while I've never been invited to the residence, from what I've read, it would make a perfect conference center," said professor Alan Wolfe, who added that he thinks a university the size and caliber of BC should have such a facility. University historian Thomas O'Connor notes that BC has law, business, and nursing schools, as well as a theology department, but no divinity school. A school of divinity would capitalize on "the distinct spiritual contributions Boston College can make" with the property, O'Connor said. Spokesman Jack Dunn said one of BC's most pressing needs is for student-friendly open space "for touch football or a pickup softball game."

DOWNSIZING: Boston University president emeritus John Silber has moved out of his expansive, multiroom mahogany-paneled office on the ninth floor of the School of Management and into a one-room office on the same floor, according to BU spokeswoman Nancy Sterling. (Silber gets to stay in his chancellor's mansion for life.) Meanwhile, four of Silber's staff members have been transferred to the offices of the president and executive vice president. The three staff members who remain are focused on archiving 30 years of Silber's files and helping prepare his speeches. Once the archiving is finished, Silber -- who no longer has an administrative role but will remain on the faculty -- will probably have a staff of one or two, Sterling said.

FILM STUDIES: Stars Jude Law and Nicole Kidman aren't expected to attend, but UMass-Boston has finagled its very own premiere of the major studio film "Cold Mountain" on Tuesday, the same night as the movie's New York debut. The school's Hollywood moment arises from a new orientation program for graduate students this fall; about 100 students read the Civil War novel "Cold Mountain," then discussed it with professors from a dozen different disciplines. Attempts to bring "Cold Mountain" author Charles Frazier to campus have been unsuccessful. (He is busy writing another novel.) But with help from American studies professor Judith Smith, a friend of a friend of the movie's producer, a local screening at a downtown theater was arranged. Graduate dean Emily McDermott considered renting a red carpet, but decided against it. (Too cold for low-cut gowns, anyhow.) She expects all 250 seats to be filled. "It's easier, maybe, to get students to come together for this than to read a 400-page book that's not in their field," she said.

P.S.: In other movie news, "Mona Lisa Smile," the Julia Roberts charmer partly filmed at Wellesley College last fall, is due to open Dec. 19. The film's distributor, Sony Pictures, has made 1,300 tickets available to Wellesley students for four advance screenings Dec. 17 in Boston. About 200 Wellesley students worked as extras on the film, in which Roberts plays a Wellesley art history professor in the 1950s.

PRIVATE IRE: What's one of the biggest problems for public universities in Massachusetts? All those elite private universities, said Northeastern president Richard M. Freeland. Freeland, who spent 22 years at UMass -- and who currently serves on the search committee for a new University of Massachusetts president -- said in an interview last week that the state's reputation as a higher-education mecca has allowed its leaders to live for decades "in a dream world of complacency about the quality of the public education that our work force depends on." Freeland said that there are dozens of UMass graduates in the Legislature now, compared with one in 1970, but that "the old dynamic is still there, that this is a place where we can save a buck. It's going to come back and bite the state."

Marcella Bombardieri and Jenna Russell of the Globe staff compiled this report. Tip? Question? E-mail

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