ASU: Obama Undeserving of Honorary Degree
Thursday, April 09, 2009 at 6:23 pm
This is rather shocking, particularly for me, as a graduate of the Arizona public university system. The Huffington Post’s Dawn Teo reports that, despite being granted the honor of having the president of the United States give its commencement address, Arizona State University has decided not to award President Obama an honorary degree, as is the tradition for graduation day speakers.
ASU Media Relations Director Sharon Keeler says, unlike other universities, the processes for selecting commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients are independent. She says that honorary degrees are given “for an achievement of eminence” and that Obama was not considered for an honorary degree because his body of achievements, at this time, does not fit within that criteria.
I don’t think it really needs to be said, as Teo writes, that getting elected president of the United States — and the first African-American president, at that — seems like quite a substantial achievement.
Really, ASU? Is this really your best P.R. move?
After all, as the Phoenix-area’s East Valley Tribune editorialized:
Barry Goldwater received his honorary degree in May 1961, three years before his Republican nomination for president and only eight years into his three decades as a U.S. senator. Sandra Day O’Connor was similarly recognized just three years in her 25 years on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Do you forget that in 2005, you were Playboy’s No. 1 party school in the country? Granted, you’ve dropped to No. 17 in 2008, according to the Princeton Review — but does that mean you are now above giving an honorary degree to the president?
And I don’t know if you remember, but Arizona had a bit of an image problem just two decades ago, for refusing to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday. After that whole kerfuffle, is this the message The Grand Canyon State wishes to send to the rest of the country — that Obama’s election is an achievement unworthy of recognition?
Update: Sam Stein does some digging and finds that Obama might be a better candidate for an honorary degree if he donated $50 million to ASU.
2nd Update: Stein has more. An ASU official suggests the university might give Obama an honorary degree after he leaves office.
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