On Monday, President Falk sent out a campus-wide e-mail outlining a significant change in how the College selects its honorary degree recipients. After the controversy among students and faculty over having former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg as last year’s commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient (“Selection of Commencement speaker, Bloomberg, sparks controversy,” Apr. 23, 2014), the College decided to modify the honorary degree selection process by incorporating more student involvement. The bulk of this change centers on the re-composition of the Honorary Degrees Advisory Committee, which will consist of one member of the Board of Trustees, the College Marshal, the College Chaplain, three faculty members, ten students and the Vice President for Public Affairs.
As the former committee included a total of four students, the College hopes that the inclusion of six additional students will give the student body a stronger voice in this selection process. The student representatives will include three elected sophomores, juniors and seniors, along with College Council’s Vice President for Community and Diversity, who sits on both College Council (CC) and the Minority Coalition. Those faculty and students currently seated on the committee will continue their terms, while elections will be held in order to fill in the newly added seats. Sophomores, when elected, will serve for three years in order “to deepen their engagement and provide continuity,” according to Falk’s e-mail.
Members of the Honorary Degrees Advisory Committee will collaborate and discuss who they believe will be the best candidates to receive an honorary degree from the College. As of now, they will not, however, officially vote on and choose the recipients. In the committee’s new formation, the trustee co-chair of the committee will propose the nominations to the Board of Trustees, the group which has the sole authority to grant honorary degrees according to College policy. From there, a correspondence between the committee and the Board of Trustees will keep the committee informed of progress in the recruitment of potential commencement speakers.
According to CC co-president Erica Moszkowski ’15, “the goal of the new committee structure, which has more than double the original number of student representatives, is threefold: to represent a larger portion of the student body, to empower student voices in the Honorary Degrees Committee, and most importantly, to encourage the representatives from each class year to actively seek input and feedback from their peers.” Moszkowski and co-president Emily Dzieciatko ’15 hope to meet with the current student members of the Honorary Degrees Committee so that they may “flesh out concrete ways to open channels of communication between the class and the representatives.”
Another e-mail will be sent out to current sophomores, juniors and seniors to request self-nominations for the election that will take place later this month.