Political discourse shouldn't be enough to strip an honorary degree holder of his symbolic sheepskin. Federal criminal convictions, religious bigotry and incitement of insurrection, however, are qualifying revocation prerequisites. Last week, the
Political discourse shouldn’t be enough to strip an honorary degree holder of his symbolic sheepskin.
Federal criminal convictions, religious bigotry and incitement of insurrection, however, are qualifying revocation prerequisites.
Last week, the University of Rhode Island yanked honorary degrees previously awarded to retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
“I find the ‘cancel culture’ crusade on the campus of the University of Rhode Island, led by (URI) President Marc Parlange, to be absolutely disgusting and disgraceful,” said Republican state Rep. Robert Quattrocchi (District 41-Scituate and a portion of Cranston). “Rhode Island’s great patriot and war hero, General Michael Flynn, served our country with honor.”
The URI Honorary Degree Committee deliberated in December 2021 and forwarded its recommendation to Parlange, who endorsed the committee’s recommendation. School trustees then voted to approve pulling the degrees.
The Committee listed five major justifications:
First, Flynn pleaded guilty twice to a felony count of “willfully and knowingly” lying to the FBI.
Second, in June 2021, at a conference in Dallas, Texas, Flynn suggested a military coup was needed in the U.S.
Third, in November 2021, during a rally in San Antonio, Texas, Flynn called for the establishment of “one religion” in the U.S.
Fourth, Giuliani participated in the Jan. 6, 2021 rally that incited the assault on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
And fifth, Giuliani has been suspended from practicing law in Washington, D.C. and New York after spewing unproven and unfounded claims of rampant fraud during the 2020 presidential election.
Parlange said the two men “no longer represent the highest level of our values and standards that were evident when we first bestowed the degree.”
“The recommendation by URI to discredit General Flynn solely based on political discourse, lacks the fundamental intellectual capacity and inclusivity for a modern institution of higher learning and must be overturned immediately,” Quattrocchi alleges. “Rhode Island was founded on the principles of independent thinking. It is a shame that URI has forgotten our core values.”
Quattrocchi ignores Flynn’s criminal convictions and the Jan. 6 insurrection in the press release he distributed with fellow Republican state Rep. Sherry Roberts (District 29-West Greenwich and Coventry).
In 2003, URI awarded Giuliani with a Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa “based on his demonstrated leadership in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.”
Then, in 2014, URI awarded Flynn, a 1981 URI graduate and three-star Army general, an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
Occasionally, humans are capable of great bravery and grave dishonesty in the same lifetime.
“As a civic institution, URI has the privilege and responsibility to sustain and preserve American democracy by inspiring and modeling good citizenship,” Parlange said. “Revoking these honorary degrees reinforces our values and allows us to lead with truth and integrity.”
Degrees should be earned. In life, all that we earn can be taken away in a heartbeat if we make poor decisions. Students of the future must learn the importance of sound decision-making. Pulling Flynn and Giuliani’s honorary degrees was a sound decision. They earned it.
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