Volume 91, Issue 20

Wednesday, October 1, 1997



Democrats bushwacked at U of T

By Brendan Howe
Gazette Staff

Former American President George Bush has been offered an honorary degree from the University of Toronto – sparking a fire of controversy throughout the student and faculty population at the school.

David Galbraith, an English professor, organized a faculty protest against the move in the form of a letter to university President Robert Prichard. He said 104 faculty members signed the letter over two days.

"The vast majority of people we approached were opposed to the move to give Bush a degree. Very few people refused to sign [the letter]," Galbraith said. He gave the letter to Prichard Thursday morning but said he has yet to receive a response from the university's president.

Political science professor Jean Smith approved of the degree saying he thought it was a great move by the university. Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau is one of the prominent Canadian figures that has been honored by Toronto, Smith said, adding honoring Trudeau is not much different than Bush.

The Students' Administrative Council at the university decided in a close vote that their official position on the matter is against granting Bush the degree, SAC President Ted Falgado said. He explained council believes there are more qualified people that could be given degrees.

"Some people are concerned that he is an American. I have no problem with him receiving a degree but we have to go with what the council has decided to do," Falgado said.

Honorary degrees at Toronto are awarded after being endorsed by the university's honorary degree committee. University Chancellor and chair of the committee Hal Jackman refused to comment on the issue. Prichard was also unavailable for comment.

Professor at William Patterson College and author of Imperial Alibis: Interventionism after the Cold War Steven Shalom said it is a sorry day for the University of Toronto.

"If the university is trying to uphold standards of justice and peace they have the wrong guy," he said, adding that as head of the CIA, Bush was responsible for many acts of violence and grotesque policies.

But Smith said Bush's actions when he was head of the Central Intelligence Agency were irrelevant because the university is honoring him for his achievements as President.

Falgado said if Bush accepts the honorary degree he will receive it in a small convocation on Nov. 17. SAC presently does not have any plans for further protest and is waiting on the response from Galbraith's letter.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997