Volume 91, Issue 46

Wednesday, November 19, 1997



Bushel of voices

Today George Bush will receive his honourary degree from the University of Toronto. Why? Because he is a former President of the United States. Why shouldn't he? Just ask the hundreds of protesters from in and around the university community who have joined together to declare Bush is unworthy.

However loud the debate gets, though, there is something much more significant to be taken from the situation – the sweet symphony of unison the University of Toronto community has displayed throughout the past month of protesting.

Originally, when Toronto's honorary degree nomination committee deemed Bush to be a perfect recipient, there was likely no thought that it would cause an uproar. Now, after approximately 150 students crammed into a governing council meeting on Nov. 3 (not a routine occurrence) to demand their voices be heard, a petition with hundreds of faculty and student names was sent to university president Robert Prichard and a strong threat of protest today, the University of Toronto has a lot to think about – all thanks to a spirited group effort.

Western's version of protest was directed at a less mighty nominee, Jacques Parizeau, one of Canada's most controversial political figures. Though he is not a former global leader, Parizeau appeared to pose a threat to a group of patriotic political clubs on campus. But when hardly anyone attended a protest prior to Parizeau's speech, it seemed few in the university community wanted to mobilize.

With Bush having already received over 50 complimentary degrees and babies being awarded the honour from the University of British Columbia, the worth of another honorary degree doesn't seem to matter anymore – that is, until Toronto made a point.

When was the last time a university community in Canada bound together to fight a cause that really didn't matter too much to anybody? Canada's lobby groups haven't

This protest has put Bush under a microscope and Toronto's governing body in the hot seat – bringing national attention to an international figure on an issue they thought would otherwise never be discussed.

Bush will receive his degree anyway, but it is impossible to ignore the impact this type of unified effort to save the face of the university, or who it endorses with degrees, has had on future decisions. It is also an excellent showing for the spirit of Toronto's university students – who had nothing to lose directly.

Whether Bush deserves the degree or not, the faculty and students who have fought in the protesting trenches for the past few months admirably deserve a medal for reminding all students that no matter how small the issue may seem, the beliefs of anyone at university are still worth fighting for.

To Contact The Editorial Department: gazed@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997