The Boston Globe reported this morning that although Attorney General Michael Mukasey will still speak at this year's Boston College Law School commencement, the school has decided that it would nonetheless "deny Mukasey the Founder's Medal," which celebrates "traditions of professionalism, scholarship, and service which the Law School seeks to instill in its students." Some students had protested against the decision to honor Mukasey, in part "because his position on waterboarding conflicts with the university's Jesuit mission." (Incidentially, would the students and faculty members who are up in arms in defense of BC's 'Jesuit mission' be equally upset having a speaker from Planned Parenthood, Death with Dignity, or Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders -- all of which advocate legal and social positions at odds with Catholic theology?)
Retaining Mukasey as the speaker while not bestowing an honor upon him has the effect of defanging the criticisms of campus activists who are opposed to the viewpoint espoused by the speaker. Indeed, by disaggregating the symbolic function of the invitation (giving him the Founder's Medal arguably puts the law school's imprimatur on Mukasey's views) from the expressive function of the invitation (exposing law students to the highest-ranking lawyer in the Executive Branch), Boston College has made it so no one can claim that the school is ratifying Mukasey's views. Instead, it becomes clear that those who still object to Mukasey's speech simply do not like the idea of hearing speech they disagree with.
Update: The story was originally broken by student reporters at BC Law school's eagleionline.com, which the Globe report failed to mention. Gotta give credit where credit's due.