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Old 05-12-2006, 08:41 AM   #1
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BC English Professor Quits Over Commencement Speaker Choice

Some people at Boston College are upset over the choice of Dr. Rice and a professor has quit in protest - here is his letter. Is choosing anyone to be a commencement speaker indicative of any sort of endorsement of policy or someone's moral character? What is its' importance in the grand scheme of things?

BC said it chose her because of her life accomplishments, something along those lines...

By Steve Almond | May 12, 2006

An open letter to William P. Leahy, SJ, president of Boston College.

Dear Father Leahy,

I am writing to resign my post as an adjunct professor of English at Boston College.

I am doing so -- after five years at BC, and with tremendous regret -- as a direct result of your decision to invite Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to be the commencement speaker at this year's graduation.

Many members of the faculty and student body already have voiced their objection to the invitation, arguing that Rice's actions as secretary of state are inconsistent with the broader humanistic values of the university and the Catholic and Jesuit traditions from which those values derive.

But I am not writing this letter simply because of an objection to the war against Iraq. My concern is more fundamental. Simply put, Rice is a liar.

She has lied to the American people knowingly, repeatedly, often extravagantly over the past five years, in an effort to justify a pathologically misguided foreign policy.

The public record of her deceits is extensive. During the ramp-up to the Iraq war, she made 29 false or misleading public statements concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda, according to a congressional investigation by the House Committee on Government Reform.

To cite one example:

In an effort to build the case for war, then-National Security Adviser Rice repeatedly asserted that Iraq was pursuing a nuclear weapon, and specifically seeking uranium in Africa.

In July of 2003, after these claims were disproved, Rice said: ''Now if there were doubts about the underlying intelligence . . . those doubts were not communicated to the president, the vice president, or to me."

Rice's own deputy, Stephen Hadley, later admitted that the CIA had sent her a memo eight months earlier warning against the use of this claim.

In the three years since the war began, Rice has continued to misrepresent or simply ignore the truth about our deadly adventure in Iraq.

Like the president whom she serves so faithfully, she refuses to recognize her errors or the tragic consequences of those errors to the young soldiers and civilians dying in Iraq. She is a diplomat whose central allegiance is not to the democratic cause of this nation, but absolute power.

This is the woman to whom you will be bestowing an honorary degree, along with the privilege of addressing the graduating class of 2006.

It is this last notion I find most reprehensible: that Boston College would entrust to Rice the role of moral exemplar.

To be clear: I am not questioning her intellectual gifts or academic accomplishments. Nor her potentially inspiring role as a powerful woman of color.

But these are not the factors by which a commencement speaker should be judged. It is the content of one's character that matters here -- the reverence for truth and knowledge that Boston College purports to champion.

Rice does not personify these values; she repudiates them. Whatever inspiring rhetoric she might present to the graduating class, her actions as a citizen and politician tell a different story.

Honestly, Father Leahy, what lessons do you expect her to impart to impressionable seniors?

That hard work in the corporate sector might gain them a spot on the board of Chevron? That they, too, might someday have an oil tanker named after them? That it is acceptable to lie to the American people for political gain?

Given the widespread objection to inviting Rice, I would like to think you will rescind the offer. But that is clearly not going to happen.

Like the administration in Washington, you appear too proud to admit to your mistake. Instead, you will mouth a bunch of platitudes, all of which boil down to: You don't want to lose face.

In this sense, you leave me no choice.

I cannot, in good conscience, exhort my students to pursue truth and knowledge, then collect a paycheck from an institution that displays such flagrant disregard for both.

I would like to apologize to my students and prospective students. I would also urge them to investigate the words and actions of Rice, and to exercise their own First Amendment rights at her speech.
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Old 05-12-2006, 08:43 AM   #2
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They should have just invited Kissinger.
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Old 05-12-2006, 08:59 AM   #3
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I think quitting over a commencement speaker is the definition of "overreaction."

However, it certainly is quite hypocritical of a Catholic institution to have Condi speak at the commencement, when they're officially against the war. I can only imagine the furor from the Vatican if someone tied to a gay rights organization had been invited to speak. And yet, we'll hear nothing over this choice of pro-war speaker.

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Old 05-12-2006, 01:18 PM   #4
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Plenty of people quit organizations, thinking that the resignation will cause more change than if the person had remained and continued to work within the organization's structure.

Just a matter of ego.
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Old 05-12-2006, 07:32 PM   #5
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Steve Almond is a fairly well-known fiction and nonfiction writer, so his departure probably comes as a big blow to BC's English program. The thing is, he's at the point in his writing career that he probably doesn't need a full-time teaching gig anymore, so I'm wondering if he was thinking of quitting anyway and just decided to kick and scream on his way out.

While I certainly agree with his opinion, it's a shame that he didn't realize two things: that his resignation isn't going to make one bit of difference, except that students will miss out on taking his classes, and that about 99% of people attending a graduation ceremony don't pay one bit of attention to the speaker.
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Old 05-13-2006, 09:24 AM   #6
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Well written letter, and compelling arguement. Will it do any good? No, because as he said, its more to do with saving face then doing the right thing
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Old 05-22-2006, 08:18 AM   #7
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By Catherine Elton, Globe Correspondent | May 22, 2006

On the eve of her controversial commencement speech at Boston College, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice celebrated her critics' right to object to her presence. But she defended the Bush administration's actions in Iraq and challenged her critics' assertions that the Iraq war clashed with Catholic morals.

''Christians are of course on both sides of the argument about the use of force -- when it is indeed just to use force and when it is not," she said at a news conference yesterday.

''We have overthrown a dictator who brutalized his population. . . . Sometimes you have to get rid of really, really bad regimes," she said.

Boston College's announcement on May 1 that Rice would speak at graduation today and would receive an honorary law degree has divided the Jesuit college, and has underscored deep divisions between liberal and conservative Catholics.

Over the past weeks, people on both sides of the debate have written public letters, have started petitions and countering petitions, and have accused one another of selectively invoking Catholic doctrine. One adjunct professor of English, Steve Almond, quit over the invitation.

The controversy will culminate at today's ceremony. Some students and faculty members plan to wear arm bands and turn their backs when Rice gets her degree, and Boston peace activists plan to march and rally outside the ceremony in Alumni Stadium.

Rice said yesterday that her critics are welcome to say whatever they want about her.

''That's the great blessing of living in a free country," she said, adding that she is glad ''the people of Baghdad and people of Kabul are going to enjoy, finally, the same liberty to say what they think that the people of Boston do."

Speaking to a small group of reporters at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in downtown Boston, Rice addressed questions on Iraq and Iran and joked about her reason for accepting Boston College's invitation.

''I am tempted to say it was because they kept beating Notre Dame in football," she said jokingly of the Catholic university in Indiana, where she got a master's degree. ''I wanted to see what was in the water up here."

Rice also studied at a Catholic high school in Colorado, though she is the daughter of a Presbyterian minister.

She said she thought that Catholic colleges were doing a good job trying to balance the desire to ''uphold Catholic traditions and provide a free atmosphere to exchange views" on issues such as abortion and reproductive health.

Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs who is also a Boston College graduate, said her critics should look at more than Iraq, citing Rice's work on Darfur and on AIDS in Africa.

''You have to look at the totality of her work on issues that are of concern to a lot of Americans," Burns said in a phone interview. Opponents of inviting Rice, however, were not swayed. Deborah Levenson, a history professor, said it was impossible to separate Rice from the war in Iraq.

''The issue is the war," she said. ''I'm sure she will give a perfectly beautiful and eloquent speech. But life is not as cheap as words. There was no threat posed to the US by Iraq."
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Old 05-22-2006, 08:55 AM   #8
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I think resigning is overdoing it. I would have organized a demonstration and kept my job.
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Old 05-22-2006, 11:37 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonoIsMyMuse
Steve Almond is a fairly well-known fiction and nonfiction writer, so his departure probably comes as a big blow to BC's English program. The thing is, he's at the point in his writing career that he probably doesn't need a full-time teaching gig anymore, so I'm wondering if he was thinking of quitting anyway and just decided to kick and scream on his way out.

While I certainly agree with his opinion, it's a shame that he didn't realize two things: that his resignation isn't going to make one bit of difference, except that students will miss out on taking his classes, and that about 99% of people attending a graduation ceremony don't pay one bit of attention to the speaker.

This is exactly my take on this non-issue.

Almond probably had ulterior motives to quit his job, but decided to throw a tantrum when BC chose a speaker that he couldn't possibly tolerate. He certainly generated a bit of pub for himself though, didn't he. Smart dude.

It's strange to me that a university professor can act in such a petulant manner, the political equivalent of holding your hands over your ears and humming when mommy tells you to eat your greens.

Barbara Boxer spoke at my graduation ceremony at Cal, mainly because her son Doug graduated with us. I, and many of my classmates, happened to disagree with some of her positions, but
no one made a big stink out of it... what for? Would've seemed a bit rude, I think. They could have had Kim Il Sung or Ayatollah Khomeini there, and we would've been just as drunk and happy regardless.

We were all just glad to be done with school, never mind who the commencement speaker was, big deal.

I admire Almond's passion and desire to "make a statement", but I think he chose the wrong forum.
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Old 05-22-2006, 11:59 AM   #10
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If Doug Flutie were to come out against Rice speaking at graduation, then the school would immediately look for another speaker. Their world revolves around him and no one else.
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Old 05-22-2006, 12:19 PM   #11
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What if only Gerald Phelan and that guy in the eagle suit protested Rice's speech?

BC students would be flipping coins trying to decide whether to attend, wouldn't they?
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Old 05-23-2006, 02:46 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by randhail
If Doug Flutie were to come out against Rice speaking at graduation, then the school would immediately look for another speaker. Their world revolves around him and no one else.
you're kidding right? I feel like I've been sucked into a time warp...

I was about to write that I agree it's a silly thing to do, and probably serving some ulterior motive, to resign over this instead of, say, orchestrate a protest.
But that last line of his made me change my mind and give him the benefit of believing his offered reason. Can't the man decide he doesn't want to collect a paycheck from an institution willing to compromise its alleged principles so flagrantly in his view? Sure, if he couldn't get a paycheck elsewhere, he might be less inclined to feel so strongly about it...I don't know him or know of him...but I'm guessing that he might really not want to feel cheapened by playing along with BC now, and given that he can afford a taste for integrity (again, in his view) he's going for it.
I can see especially that since her role was as 'yes' woman-- loyally serving her president's wishes and doing his bidding, misleading us into thinking we were imminently threatened and saving the 'he's a bad man' rationale for de-throning Saddam til later because that would never have been enough to convince us we needed to go in with bombs--this Almond guy might want to not stand by and be a 'whatever' man in his organization. He's living the "if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention" motto most fully....
cheers all!
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