Earlier this week, numerous faculty members at Boston College, including members of the theology department signed a petition demanding that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice not receive an honorary degree for speaking at that school's commencement. The primary concern of the department was Rice's involvement with the war in Iraq, although her pro-choice views were also cited. Both were cited as examples of things running counter to the Catholic and Jesuit values upon which the school was founded.
Although opposition has been sporadic and limited at Boston College, and the plans for commencement seem to be moving ahead despite some controversy, the White House has greeted these events with serious concern. "Nothing in the letter addresses the issues between Boston College and the international community," said Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the National Security Council. It is not clear what was meant by this statement, but other statements were much clearer. "We do not intend to allow Boston College to continue making trouble and providing shelter to dangerous terrorist sympathizers," said the State Department's press secretary.
The administration, which firmly maintains that all those who do not support the administration are actively opposing it, has said that those who shelter terrorists are themselves terrorists. "As far as the administration is concerned, Boston College is now a terrorist organization" said White House press secretary Scott McClellan.
The President of Boston College, Father William P. Leahy, S.J., was concerned by the White House declaration. "It is only a vocal minority that has signed this letter," the Jesuit Priest said, "and it is certainly not an official university position that the White House is fundamentally opposed to Catholic and Jesuit values. Nonetheless, even if it were, this would not be grounds for calling the whole university a ‘terrorist organization'". Father Leahy also added that the university was obviously supportive enough to invite Rice in the first place; something that he expected would earn the administration's support. "The United States are cooperating with the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, because they have allied themselves with us in the war on terror. Yet both nations are infested with terrorists and terrorist sympathizers, often supported by their governments. Why isn't Boston College in the same boat?" asked Father Leahy.
Nonetheless, the logic of the White House is firm. "All those who are not with us are terrorists, and all those who shelter terrorists are terrorists. In providing employment to those opposed to the administration's policies, Boston College is sheltering terrorists, and is therefore a terrorist organization" said President Bush.
The White House has, however, been cautious in dealing with the university, despite its terrorist status. Condoleezza Rice appears ready to visit the school as planned, and will probably use the opportunity to discuss the school's support for terrorists and secret weapons program, sources say. Heavily committed to Iraq and Afghanistan, facing a possible confrontation with Iran, watching Syria and North Korea carefully, and facing fading support at home, the administration is not prepared to take firm action against Boston College. "We hope that diplomacy will resolve the situation, but we are prepared to take further steps if necessary" said the Rice.
Father Leahy denied that the Catholic university was embarking on a weapons program of any kind, and couldn't understand where the administration could have gotten such a notion. Benjamin Braude, an associate professor of history and a faculty member in the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies program, asserted that the White House's definition of terrorism was needlessly broad, a factor which has apparently contributed to the classification of the university as a "terrorist organization". Father Leahy reiterated his puzzlement over the White House's willingness to work with terrorist-sympathizing governments like those of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, but not other organizations which are not in any way terrorist.