It is with disgust that I register Dublin City University (DCU) has conferred an honorary doctorate on Bill Clinton today. I was awarded my first Master’s degree at DCU and – all things being equal – will be conferred with my own doctorate from DCU in a few short years. So, to be honest, I expected more of the university. One of the attractive things about DCU is that it’s a young, progressive, innovative university. I have studied at four other universities and have returned to DCU to pursue my doctorate for precisely these reasons. There is still an academic and intellectual rigour and standard, but there is less in terms of stricture that often impedes research in other institutions which are bound by a sense of ‘tradition’.
As an aside, I don’t have much truck with honorary degrees and doctorates. I do believe that people should have to earn their academic accolades. It’s a large two-fingered gesture to those of us who put more than ten years’ of hard work into our studies. I am of the view that an honorary doctorate is little more than a mutual ego-massaging exercise: Each party gets the PR associated with claiming association with the perceived achievements of the other. My objection to Clinton’s ‘doctorate’ however, isn’t just based on this belief.
I am disgusted that a man who abused his power, who preyed on young women, who sexually assaulted women, has been honoured by my Alma Mater. I have no idea who makes these decisions, but I do wish that the alumni were consulted. I think we should have a vote on who is recognised by our university; on who our university declares admiration for in such a public way.
I think, on the same day that it has become common knowledge that that other sexual predator, Harvey Weinstein, contributed to Clinton’s legal fund when he was defending himself against Monica Lewinsky, it is in poor taste to honour the man. This is also the week when #MeToo is trending on Twitter; when women the world over are talking publicly about their experiences of sexual assault.
DCU, I think, would be better placed honouring Monica Lewinsky herself. Apart from her TED Talk on shame, she has spoken out against bullying, and cyber-bullying in particular. Surely she deserves to be honoured more than the man who abused his power for (her) sexual favours?