Archive for Monday, July 11, 2011

A rare honor

It’s fine for Kansas universities to award honorary degrees as long as they do it sparingly and for the right reasons.

July 11, 2011


In the workplace and elsewhere, giving someone a title can eliminate the need to reward them financially.

In too many cases, it seems that universities across the nation apply that philosophy when they award honorary degrees to celebrities who agree to deliver a commencement address.

Now that state universities in Kansas will be allowed to award honorary degrees, we hope they will reserve that honor for recipients who are truly deserving and not cheapen the designation by using it to attract celebrity speakers or reward financial support for the university.

The policy adopted last year by the Kansas Board of Regents tries to preserve the dignity and distinction that should accompany an honorary degree. It says honorary degrees should be considered “an exceptional honor” that is conferred to candidates “deeply grounded in a career of scholarship, research, creative activity, service to humanity or other profession consistent with the academic endeavors of the University awarding the degrees.”

Honorary degrees, it says, should not be considered an annual occurrence and they specifically “shall not be awarded for philanthropic activity or service” to the state or the university.

With those caveats in mind, officials at Kansas University are starting the process of considering potential honorary degree recipients. In some cases the recipients might be asked to give a speech that could replace the chancellor’s traditional address or be in addition to it. Who addresses the graduates at commencement will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Some years, KU may elect not to award any honorary degrees.

That’s as it should be. It’s fine for KU and other state universities to have the option of awarding honorary degrees, but it’s an honor that should be granted sparingly to only the most deserving recipients. Having a recipient address the graduating class could be a nice addition to KU’s commencement, but it’s unlikely to ever eclipse the true main event for KU graduates: the walk through the Campanile and down the hill to Memorial Stadium.


Kendall Simmons 6 years, 9 months ago


(I knew this would be the first comment :-)

Currahee 6 years, 9 months ago

The J-W editorial staff deserve honorary degrees in journalism for writing this piece.

Lawrence Morgan 6 years, 9 months ago

It's an excellent editorial, right to the point. I agree with Currahee-the Journal World staff deserves credit for an oustanding editorial. I don't know whether he meant it sarcastically, or seriously - but for me, this editorial makes some very good points.

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