Thursday, May 12, 2005

Veritas et utilitas

From the London Free Press: UWO faculty association president Allan Gedalof is upset that UWO board chairperson Don McDougall expressed disappointment in the decision of the university's senate committee to award an honorary degree to Henry Morgantaler.

"He should retract or resign," Gedalof said. […] McDougall is showing "an egregious disregard for academic freedom and for the due processes that have been established and followed for years by this university and its committees," Gedalof said.
Whatever you may think of the senate committee's decision — and it seems disingenuous of Mr. Gedalof to be taken aback by criticism of what could not be conceived as an uncontroversial decision — his indignation is poorly served by treating honorary degrees which are nothing more than public relations exercises as belonging in the domain of academic freedom.

As a student who is academically earning his degree at UWO, let me offer my unsolicited disregard: How are Truth and usefulness — the university's motto is Veritas et utilitas — served by conferring honorary degrees on Morgantaler, as well as the likes of Maude Barlow and Marc Lalonde? In my opinion, it would appear the senate committee has been overrun to some degree by activists who would like to pass off the veneer of respectability that an honorary degree would seem to confer on to agendas that do not represent the views of the students and taxpayers who pay their way. I'm sure the university could have come up with less contentious nominees if they hadn't wanted to bring this upon themselves — but they probably did want just that. Better yet, do away with honorary degrees altogether simply because they serve no academic purpose at all.

Adding the university's insult to Mr. Gedalof's indignation, the decision also fails the grade when it comes to respecting the graduating students who did earn their degrees:
Graduates receiving their degrees at the ceremony are being given only two tickets and must give the university the names of the people who will be using them.


Little Tobacco said...

seeing as how we have been exchanging comments all day ... I again agree with you for the most part. Ten years ago I was graduating from law school and there was a move amongst the faculty to offer a honorary degree to Castro during our convocation. Thankfully it did not work out. Honorary Degrees should be for those who donate to the school and/or would have something interesting/entertaining to say at convocation. Activism has no place.

MapMaster said...

Castro? What university were you at?

Jason M said...

I am extremely disappointed in UWO's decision to confer an honourary degree to Dr. Morgentaler. As an alumnus, I am seriously considering withholding future donations to the university unless they reverse this decision to honour someone responsible for the death of countless unborn children.

MapMaster said...

There's some people who are pleased by the decision, but they don't typically seem to be alumni or students.

I don't think the university's going to back down now, but if you are interested, there's an online petition protesting the plan (via SDA).