Singing the praises of Dylan
By Becky Somerville
Prospects of an honorary degree for legendary folk singer and literary figure Bob Dylan are blowin' in the wind as students at Dalhousie University fight to give Dylan the recognition they think he deserves.
Nominations for the honorary degree were motivated by Dalhousie students who petitioned other students and collected hundreds of signatures in favour of the award.
In addition to on-going petitions and an official letter to Dylan, organizers of the campaign held a Bob Dylan tribute night at a campus pub with proceeds going to the Dalhousie women's centre.
"[Bob Dylan] has shaped three generations of individuals. The kind of work that he's done in terms of social justice is amazing," said Dalhousie Student Union executive vice-president Bridgette McCaig.
Dalhousie awarded singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen an honorary degree in 1971 and its English department offers students a class on Dylan entitled Bob Dylan and Literature of the '60s.
The full-year course is designed to introduce students to the complexity of the time. It contextualizes Dylan through studies of Ginsberg to Kerouac and civil rights to the women's movement, while also examining his lyrics and his music, explained English professor Andy Wainwright.
"[Dylan] is a very significant figure and I would support him receiving an honorary degree," Wainwright said. "Bob Dylan exemplified the importance of combining lyrics with rock music in the '60s and changed the course of popular expression and culture."
At this point the students are waiting to see if the university will approve the nomination for the degree. "The next big question is if Dylan will come [to Dalhousie] one way or another," Wainwright said.
Sharlene Drake, secretary to the board of governors at Dalhousie, said there are many qualifications which the board must consider when reviewing applications for degree candidates and the committee selects from a large number of submissions.
Jason McGroarty, a student involved in the campaign, said the school has already recognized Dylan as an academic figure because they have dedicated a class to him.
There has also been almost unanimous support of the petition so far. "Out of every 100 people we petitioned, about half-a-person wouldn't sign," McGroarty said.
Whether the university decides to accept this honorary degree or not, McGroarty said he believes students have succeeded through their efforts which show if people put their minds together they can affect change.
"Dylan embodies a great deal of positive change and proactive change as well as bridging our parents generation and our own," he said. "We recognize [Dylan] as somebody who represents who we are."