ASU Just Can't Get a Break!

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PHOENIX — Arizona State University "blew it" by choosing not to award an honorary degree to President Obama when he speaks there next month, the university's spokeswoman said in an e-mail Monday.

In the e-mail, obtained by the Star, Terri Shafer, ASU's associate vice president of marketing and strategic communications, said ASU "could have — and probably would have — awarded an honorary degree to the president" when he delivers the graduation commencement address.

But Shafer said in her e-mail — written to an individual criticizing ASU — that once "controversy erupted," officials "determined it would not be appropriate to offer a degree to President Obama under circumstances in which the offer might not be considered to be genuine or positive."

After Obama agreed to speak at the state's largest university, ASU first said it would not award Obama an honorary degree.

Once the story made national news, ASU President Michael Crow announced plans to create an Obama scholarship instead. Crow said ASU always intended to honor Obama somehow.

But in her e-mail, Shafer indicated that the situation was not handled properly from the beginning.

"You are right. We blew it," Shafer wrote in response to the original e-mail — in which the individual said, "Just admit you blew it and give the honorary degree."

Shafer continued: "We have learned a big lesson, and we are taking steps to make sure it doesn't happen again in the future."

In an interview, Shafer said she could not elaborate about any plans to change the university's policy regarding honorary degrees.

She said the university is focused on planning next month's graduation ceremony.

BTW: The President of the United States who happens to be the first African-American President as well as a Constitutional Scholar and professor of law himself isn't worthy of a degree from ASU (NOT known as a mecca of top level education) however there are lots of folks who have been worthy of honorary degrees including:

  • Steve Allen - moderately entertaining piano player and political satirist
  • Tom Chauncey - owned a couple TV stations and raised horses
  • Leontyne Price - Operatic Soprano (Michael was there and met her... she did not seem impressed.)
  • Edward Albee - playwright
  • William A. Fowler - astrophysicist
  • Rabbi Albert Plotkin - Eccumenical Jewish Rabbi
  • Tony Hillerman - author of southwest mystery novels
  • Willard Pedrick - Professor of law (but not one that got elected President)
  • Wu Qidi - Minister of Education for People's Republic of China (really? You'll give a degree to a Communist Chinese official but not our own President?)
There are dozens more on the list. Most are minor figures in education. A few are figures in the arts and several are politicians of some stripe. However, it is beyond the pale to think that ASU can honor these people with degrees but not the President of the United States with his academic and social resume.

Honestly, is ASU that racist? Did some Mormon right winger from Mesa put in a fix? What's the deal with them? I mean, being in Tucson I don't pay much attention to ASU since UA is in my backyard, so what's the deal up there? Jeesh!

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