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Honor and Degrees

By       Message William Boardman     Permalink
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Does an Honorary Degree Relate to Free Speech? Not Much.

By William Boardman -- Reader Supported News

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Rutgers University Honorary Degree Nomination Process

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One of the most prestigious honors any university can bestow is an honorary degree, a degree which is conferred honoris causa, that is, for the sake of honor. This degree recognizes an individual's exceptional achievement or distinction in a field or activity consonant with the mission of the university. Through this major public action, the university is able to acknowledge worthy individuals of national and international acclaim whose accomplishments support the ideals of the university and serve as an example for our students, alumni, and society. Nominations may be made by the public or any member of the university community.

Honorary degrees purport to be about values above all

The honorary degree program at Rutgers seems little different in principle from honorary degree programs elsewhere. It serves as a way for the institution to confer honor on people whose accomplishments "evidence in his or her life a commitment of service to humankind" (as Rutgers puts it).

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There were times, when the faculty of an academic institution was the conferring body for an honorary degree, and there were times when the faculty ran their colleges, when education was in the hands of teachers. In some places,

that may still be true, to a greater or lesser extent. That was true for awhile at Rutgers and reflected a certain level of free speech. Today, while Rutgers nominations for honorary degrees may be made by anyone, the list of finalists is determined solely by the Rutgers president; his list is then vetted by a subcommittee of the board and then the full board votes on that list, which is pretty assuredly politically correct from the institutional perspective of a small number of people who are not accountable for their choices.

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Vermonter living in Woodstock: elected to five terms (served 20 years) as side judge (sitting in Superior, Family, and Small Claims Courts); public radio producer, "The Panther Program" -- nationally distributed, three albums (at CD Baby), some (more...)
 

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