A Year on, President Settles in; Catholic University's Garvey Comes to Terms with the Political Aspects of Job

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Byline: Ben Wolfgang, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A year after being tapped for one of the highest-profile posts in Catholic education, John Garvey isn't surprised by the political pressures and criticisms that have come with the job. In fact, the Catholic University of America president said some of that criticism is a welcome change from the type he's used to.

Mr. Garvey, who headed Boston College Law School for more than a decade before coming to D.C., came under fire from fellow Catholics for inviting House Speaker John A. Boehner to speak at last month's spring commencement ceremony because Mr. Boehner has led the charge for massive federal spending cuts, which, some scholars at CU and elsewhere argued, would hurt the poor.

Despite the media frenzy that surrounded the May 14 speech, it went off without a hitch, and Mr. Garvey said he viewed the episode as an opportunity to discuss important policy differences in the public arena.

In most institutions of higher education, you expect to get beat up from the [political right side], not from the left side. So it was a little refreshing, he said.

Mr. Garvey, 62, talked about the inescapable political aspects of his job, big changes in the future of college finance in America and how he hopes to improve campus life at Catholic University in a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Times editorial board.

He contrasted the dust-up over Mr. Boehner's address with the outrage among Catholics when President Obama delivered a graduation speech at Notre Dame in 2009. In that instance, it was conservative Catholics who protested Mr. Obama's pro-choice views. The debate over how best to care for the poor, Mr. Garvey said, is much more nuanced than the black-and-white issue of abortion.

There is much less room to maneuver about the subject of abortion than there is about .. how best to take care of poor people and future generations, he said

Students at Catholic University, Mr. Garvey said, were more interested in having a marquee name like Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, at their graduation than they were in using the occasion as an reason to debate budget cuts.

They also are more concerned about the quality of life on campus, something Mr. Garvey has made a top priority.

We've not been inclined to think about what makes happiness in the life of undergraduates .. for example, there weren't any basketball hoops on the campus This is Washington. We have 3,500 undergraduates. What's up with that? There has not been enough fun, he said.

Mr. …