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U. Massachusetts Honorary Degree Policy Revised

This story was written by Ricky Flynn, Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Recent controversy over some honorary degree recipients is causing the University of Massachusetts to change its policy on awarding the degrees.

Most recently, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, and George Bush's former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card have caused some on campus to question the status of their degrees and how they were awarded.

The policy changes "intended to give faculty a greater role in reviewing nominations for honorary degrees was approved Oct. 30 by the Faculty Senate," said a University press release.

Under this revision, "The Rules Committee will vote in executive session on the list of nominations before the chancellor forwards them to the President's Office, which then sends them to the Board of Trustees," continued the press release.

Currently, the University's "Policy on Awarding Honorary Degrees," states that, "Candidates for honorary degrees shall be persons of great accomplishment and high ethical standards, who exemplify the ideals of [UMass]."

This past summer, the UMass Board of Trustees unanimously revoked the honorary law degree given to Mugabe on June 12. To this day, Mugabe is the only person to have their honorary degree revoked from UMass.

Members of the University community complained that Robert Mugabe is a racist president, responsible for hate crimes against people in Zimbabwe. Additionally, many blame Mugabe for the hyperinflation of Zimbabwe's economy.

The controversy surrounding Andrew Card is based on accusations suggesting Card is a war criminal because of his support and involvement in the Iraq War.

Claims have been made against both Mugabe and Card in the above policy, stating they're not "persons ofhigh ethical standards."

In May of 2007, some members of the campus were upset when word that Card would be receiving an honorary degree came about. Some said Card was illegitimately added to the list of recipients without the approval of the faculty.

However, UMass President Jack Wilson and many faculty members were on board with the nomination.

Spokesman to the UMass President William Wright said, "Andrew Card was nominated by a faculty member and vetted through a committee of faculty, students and staff recommended to the Trustees." Wright explained that there was no illegal procedure that led to Card's nomination.

In an online petition, there are 1,750 signatures that, "support graduate students in respectfully requesting that all relevant University administratorsimmediately revoke the offer of an honorary degree to Andrew H. Card, Jr."

Many of those hoping the Board of Trustees will revoke Card's degree believe the administration should be more careful with its selections.

, "In the future, it might be wiser to give such degrees to politicians once they are "retired" from politics," said UMass Political Science professor Raymond La Raja. "At that point the record may become clearer. It's possible to get perspective on decisions politicians made while still in government."

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