Both the Salt Lake Tribune (also now here) and the Deseret News (also here) report the unthinkable: BYU is going to award Dick Cheney an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service. I had resigned myself to the fact that my alma mater had acquiesced to Dick Cheney’s self invitation to speak at its commencement; however, I cannot begin to fathom the thinking that went into the decision to award Dick Cheney an honorary degree of anything.
Not only is he undeserving of this honor, it cheapens the commencement service, and all others who are receiving actual degrees or other honorary degrees.
From the Deseret News:
PROVO — Brigham Young University will bestow on Vice President Dick Cheney an honorary degree Thursday when he speaks at the university’s commencement exercises, a decision that further frustrated Cheney’s opponents on campus.
BYU and its board of trustees will give Cheney an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service and award honorary doctorates to four long-time university supporters.
The other recipients are Ira Fulton, Honorary Doctorate of Engineering; Mary Lou Fulton, Honorary Doctorate of Education; and Jack R. and Mary Lois Wheatley, Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters.
There are many who are unhappy with this decision. Such an action implies tacit endorsement by BYU, and by extension the Church of Dick Cheney and the Bush Administration’s abhorrent political excesses and policies:
A number of professors and students who either opposed Cheney’s visit or welcomed the visit while criticizing the vice president’s policies had said that if BYU chose to bestow an honorary degree on Cheney, it would feel to them like an endorsement of Cheney’s policies by the university and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns the school.
“There are a number of faculty and students who are shocked and surprised and dismayed that Mr. Cheney will not only be honored as a commencement speaker but also receive an honorary degree from BYU,” business professor Warner Woodworth said. “I believe this is the first time in BYU history the school has so honored a commencement speaker who is in the process of being impeached by Congress.”
Cheney will arrive in Utah Thursday at 1:55 p.m. and meet with the First Presidency of the church at 2:30. Commencement begins at 4 p.m.
Professor Woodworth’s observation is well taken. Awarding such a degree to Dick Cheney at BYU, “makes reason stare.” More from the Deseret News:
The announcement that BYU would award Cheney an honorary doctorate caused an additional stir on Wednesday, with some faculty and students who oppose the vice president’s politics and policies. Some said the degree adds a measure of endorsement for Cheney that made them uncomfortable and that BYU was wise not to announce the degree until late Tuesday.
“One does wonder what message BYU intends to send with this,” political science professor Darren Hawkins said. “Honorary degrees are sometimes conferred by universities to proclaim their approval of the honoree’s character and qualities, and if that’s what BYU intends to do, I disagree wholeheartedly with the award of an honorary degree. I don’t think BYU should be commending Vice President Cheney’s character or actions to anyone.
“If they intend to acknowledge his long public service, then I have less of a problem with it because it is certainly true he has risen to a high office and has a long career of public service.”
fMh has a related post up about the alternate commencement being held in Provo. Russell over at Times and Seasons also has a great post about the Cheney protests and alternative commencement. Also check out Ronan’s letter to Mr. Cheney over at BCC. Stirling now also has a post up over at BCC with some photos. arJ also has a post on this over at Mormon Mentality. All these posts are worth reading.
I wish those who are protesting Dick Cheney’s appearance this week at the Lord’s University well. I hope they turn out in force. I will even go so far as to advocate some type of protest inside the Marriot Center when Cheney’s degree is bestowed.
This is a sad and dark day in BYU history. Shame on this decision to link BYU and the Church to an individual of such questionable moral character and repute. As Hugh Nibley once observed this of all commencements will commemorate the gathering of those in clothed in the black robes of a false priesthood.
For an opposing point of view see Jim Cobabe’s post over at Snail Hollow Gazette.