Photo courtesy of sewanee.edu
By Robert Beeland
In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against broadcast journalist and recent University 2016 honorary degree recipient Charlie Rose, Sewanee students have called for the revocation of the former CBS anchor’s honorary degree.
After a Washington Post article published on November 20 outlined Rose’s alleged harassment, “including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas,” a petition on the website ipetitions.com titled “Petition for Sewanee to Revoke Charlie Rose’s Honorary Degree” was authored by the residents of the Bairnwick Women’s Center and sent out to students by email on December 6.
“Sexual misconduct violates the EQB guidelines put forth by the university. Students, faculty, staff, community members, and alumni must preserve the sanctity of the university motto, Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity, and tell the Board of Regents and Vice Chancellor that we believe Charlie Rose’s honorary degree must be revoked as soon as possible,” the petition reads.
Since the allegations were publicly made against Rose, Arizona State has rescinded its Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Award for Excellence in Journalism awarded to Rose, which it awarded to Rose in 2015. The University of Kansas’s School of Journalism revoked the National Citation Award it awarded Rose this year as well.
The Women’s Center petition mentions a section of Rose’s Wikipedia page that “lists Sewanee as the only university not considering revoking his honorary degree.” At the time the petition was authored and disseminated to the student body, Sewanee’s awarded honorary degree was listed on the page as an award “not affected” in the aftermath of the sexual harassment allegations made against him. Since then, however, the page has been edited and all mentions of Sewanee have been removed.
In a statement to The Purple, Vice-Chancellor John McCardell explained, “I think we need to be very careful and thoughtful before we start revoking honorary degrees. We have a very clear process for nominating, selecting, and inviting honorary degree candidates. A joint Regent-Faculty Senate Committee considers all nominations and recommends a slate of candidate to the Faculty Senate for approval. That Committee meets during each meeting of the Board of Regents. Its next scheduled meeting will be in February.”
“Mr. Rose has received many honorary degrees from many institutions, including Duke and Georgetown,” McCardell continued. “SUNY Oswego is considering what it might do. Not that we would be directed in our deliberations by what any particular institution might do, but it is worth noting that there has not been a rush, at least among private institutions, to start down the road of honorary degree revocation.”
McCardell concluded, “We need to keep our institutional head about us, avoid what might appear to be mere posturing, and yet recognize, perhaps in other things we say and do, that sexual harassment in any form in any workplace is simply unacceptable.”
As of December 10, the Women’s Center petition currently has 629 signatures of its 1,000 signature goal.