College degrees are expensive these days. But GW, like most other schools, actually gives out a few degrees each year for free.
You’ve heard of them before – they’re called honorary degrees, usually bestowed upon the Commencement speaker and a few other notable guests. The Board of Trustees approved potential candidates for this year in their meeting Friday, but I have some qualms with one particular name on the list.
Alec Baldwin is the biggest celebrity name on the list, but these awards don’t have to go to people who are internationally famous. Administrators are probably hopeful that Baldwin’s fame and ties to GW – he was a student here, but he dropped out before he graduated – could lead to hefty donations. But he’s not the best option.
I’d feel a little better about Baldwin’s name being floated if he had a pristine record. But unfortunately, that’s not the case. Over the summer, he found himself at the center of a controversy over a rant on Twitter where he called a gay reporter, among other things, an “uptight queen.”
Honorary degrees are supposed to be awarded to individuals who have contributed to the world in a positive way. That makes sense.
And while Alec Baldwin’s two Primetime Emmy awards for his performance in NBC’s hit sitcom “30 Rock” are certainly well-deserved, do the achievements of any actor measure up to former director of the Environmental Protection Agency Paul Anastas’ efforts to create and use environmentally friendly chemicals?
Are Baldwin’s performances equal to the work of alumnus Anwar Gargash, the minister of state for foreign affairs in the United Arab Emirates, who was instrumental in pushing for free elections in his country, the first of which was held in 2006?
These two men are on the list. And their names deserve to be among GW’s long list of honorees.
Unfortunately, GW has a sour track record on honorary degrees, bestowing this honor upon too many undeserving recipients. Take, for example, 2012 awardee and richest man in the world Carlos Slim, who was under fire at the time for allegedly monopolizing the cell phone market in his home country of Mexico and adversely affecting the poor.
Not to mention former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who received an honorary degree in 1999 despite allegations of corruption and an indisputably authoritarian leadership style.
This Commencement, GW has a chance to right the record.
GW has made solid decisions with these degrees before by nominating central political figures like President Ronald Reagan in 1991, former secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and Madeline Albright in 1994 and 2000, respectively.
Administrators have the chance to add another worthy name to the list this year, and give honorary degrees to people who are, well, genuinely honorable.
The writer, a junior majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.