Honorary Degrees Committee hires firm to vet candidates
The University’s Honorary Degrees Committee, which annually selects candidates to receive honorary degrees, has implemented several changes to its selection process, including hiring an outside firm to help with the vetting process of potential candidates and adding the University’s General Counsel Steven Locke to the committee.
According to the Honorary Degrees Committee Chair Carolyn Saivetz ’69 in an email to the Justice, the changes were implemented last spring. These changes come after the University received national attention and criticism when the University first offered and then rescinded an honorary degree from Somali-born activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali in April.
One way in which the selection process has been made more thorough is by hiring an outside firm to help with the vetting process to avoid future incidents like the one that occurred last spring. Saivetz did not specify which firm this was but wrote that it will work closely with the University. Saivetz also wrote in an email to the Justice that every potential honoree will also be reviewed and discussed by “all senior faculty in the department” with which the recipient’s work relates.
According to the University’s website, anyone can submit the name of a potential honorary degree recipient to the Honorary Degrees Committee. The committee then votes on candidates and brings a list of selected candidates to the entire Board of Trustees for approval. The University president then selects the degree recipients. Saivetz wrote that an online form has recently been created so that “students, faculty, and trustees can all nominate worthy candidates.”
Senior Representative to the Board Mohamed Sidique ’15 said in an interview with the Justice that the committee wants to make absolutely sure that it has collected substantial research on potential candidates and that all input is taken into consideration before decisions are made. He emphasized that the University “welcomes free speech” and differing viewpoints, but has decided to take more precautions when it comes to screening candidates.
Locke has also been added to the committee and according to Saivetz, will “bring a lawyer’s analytical mind to the vetting process.” Locke did not respond to requests for comment regarding his new role by press time.
—Tate Herbert contributed reporting.