Do Honorary Degrees Devalue The PhD?
Well folks, I think I have seen everything. Kanye West just received an honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Thankful for the recognition, “The College Dropout” Grammy winner also mentioned how important the art of “I’m sorry” can be. “‘I’m sorry’ is something you can use a lot,” mentioned West. “It gives you the opportunity to give your opinion, apologize for it and give your opinion again.”
I personally never understood why colleges are willing to hand out honorary degrees, but do understand the marketing ploy. Having a socially relevant and influential figure associated with your institution can certainly help when it comes to funding and attracting applicants. Yet it seems like these days they’ll hand almost anyone an honorary doctorate.
Do you think standards have gone out the window when it comes to the recipient? Or is anyone who makes a splash in pop culture fair game?
“Recipients of honorary doctorate degrees do not earn the degree through academic achievements, rather with generous and altruistic actions or lifetime accomplishments that benefit a community, nation or humanity in general,” one site notes.
This might explain why figures like Bill Gates, Oprah and the late Maya Angelou have complimentary degrees. They made significant contributions to society. Now we want to add Kanye West into the mix? Just to put things in perspective a little, the late great Steve Jobs (y’all remember him) who once gave an amazing commencement speech at Stanford University and didn’t even receive a honorary doctorate. He thought it was weird!
Like West, Jobs was a college dropout whose success is a testament to hard work and dedication. Come to think of it, many celebrity recipients of an honorary doctorate either dropped out of college or didn’t attend at all. Both Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs and True Blood star Alexander Skarsgård are two examples of people who received an honorary degree from the very college they left. Mike Tyson dropped out of high school and received a Doctorate of Human Letters from Central State University.
I guess better late than never?
At the end of the day, honorary degrees are subjective. If a college or university feels someone is an appropriate recipient, they will have no problem giving out a doctorate to a celebrity. We might agree with some and side eye others, but ultimately just have to nod and keep it moving.
And what about celebrities with shamed legacies like Bill Cosby? Given he has well over 15 honorary degrees, should they be rescinded?
I personally don’t have a PhD. It’s too much school for me, but who knows what can happen down the road. I do however know plenty of friends and relatives who went to school and put in the hard work to obtain one. Some don’t care if a celebrity gets an honorary doctorate while others think it sets the wrong tone for those pursuing higher education. Why pay so much money to the point of debt when you can just have one handed to you?