Sun. May 19th, 2024

Morehouse faculty set to vote next week whether to award Biden an honorary degree

By 37ci3 May10,2024

ATLANTA – A group of Morehouse College teachers are trying to shut down the school conferring the title of honorary doctor On President Joe Biden at the May 19 inauguration.

Morehouse President David Thomas met with faculty members virtually Wednesday to discuss the matter.

“Most of the comments were against the honorary degree, but there were a few very strong defenses,” said one faculty member on the convocation.

Opponents of the decision criticized Biden’s policies on policing and mass incarceration, his handling of the conflict in Gaza and more recently comments around student protests. Supporters of the honorary degree called the attacks on Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza “baseless,” according to the caller.

Still, it’s not clear how widespread the discontent is. The first real test will come next week.

Although Morehouse announced last month that Biden would be awarded an honorary doctorate, procedurally the faculty still has to vote in favor of the decision. That vote is scheduled to take place Thursday during a regularly scheduled faculty meeting, according to a faculty member.

Cedric Richmond, a Morehouse graduate who co-chaired Biden’s re-election campaign, said Biden “earned an honorary degree.”

“You reduce black child poverty by 50% in one year. You put the first African-American woman on the Supreme Court in US history. You have put more African-American women on the appeals courts than all other presidents combined. You’re closing the racial wealth gap at an all-time low, black unemployment is at an all-time low … all of these play a very important role in the African-American community,” Richmond told NBC News.

In a statement, Morehouse College acknowledged some disagreements, but said the reason for the vote on the honorary degree would simply be due to a procedural snafu.

“It should be clarified that the final decision to hold a vote to award Biden an honorary degree is not in question due to current political issues,” the statement said. “The decision to call for a faculty vote is due to a mishandling of the process that traditionally includes a faculty vote, which usually takes place in September. To respect due process and ensure that the faculty vote is included, Morehouse administration will hold a faculty meeting for the vote, which will then go to the Board of Trustees for final approval. “

“During the faculty meeting, in true Morehouse fashion, all perspectives were expressed — support and concern, not unlike the national public debate,” he said.

Ahead of Biden’s speech, some teachers also began circulating a letter to express their “collective displeasure.” He respects Biden.

“We, the undersigned faculty at Morehouse College, are writing to express our collective displeasure with the invitation extended to President Joseph R. Biden to deliver the Commencement address at this year’s commencement ceremony, and we certainly do not agree with awarding him an honorary Morehouse Award. degree,” read the letter shared with NBC News.

Three Morehouse teachers read the letter aloud Wednesday morning during a rally on the Morehouse campus.

“His continued genocidal campaign against the IDF and Hamas, 15,000 of whom are reportedly children, including 35,000 Palestinians, is grounds for standing before the International Court of Justice, not before his Morehouse graduating class. The letter also condemned Biden’s “tacit support for the dictator Kagame’s regime and his proxy war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

The protests highlight frustrations with Biden on many college campuses. pro-Palestinian protests this spring. Morehouse is one of two college campuses where Biden will be the commencement speaker; the other is the US Military Academy at West Point.

A White House source said the president was excited to speak at Morehouse and emphasized that despite campus disagreements, there had been no effort by Morehouse administration to rescind his invitation to speak, adding that “there was no discussion in either direction to back down. “

“We’re happy to focus on students, and we’re also happy to take this opportunity to have the president speak directly to students to address their concerns,” a White House source said, adding that Biden was “not comfortable” with the prospect of a protest.

The protests at Morehouse began before the school officially announced that Biden would deliver the commencement address.

Faculty members and school leaders have urged the White House to participate in any form”direct employment“Before the commencement address. Now some faculty members are also advocating that the president host a ‘peace council’ when he comes to campus rather than delivering a speech.

“It’s kind of an attempt to change the direction of communication,” said the faculty member who released the letter. “Usually, you know, the commencement speaker speaks to us from a position of moral authority and gives some sort of advice to the graduating class. I think the idea is to sort of reverse that line of communication and force the president to listen to the message from the Morehouse community.

Before Wednesday’s faculty meeting, about 50 students and faculty at both Morehouse College and Spelman College gathered to protest the “war on Gaza” that began after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. Urges Biden to cancel vacation plans. Several students characterized Biden’s visit as political in nature and aimed at rallying support among young black voters.

Malik Pool, a junior software engineering student, noted that while the school invited Biden to be the commencement speaker in September, he didn’t accept until April, a week after President Trump visited the Chick Elephant. One mile from the Morehouse campus.

“It is very clear that this is only a presidential campaign, and under normal circumstances, Joseph R. Biden would not be on our campus,” Pool said.

Richmond called the idea that Biden’s visit was motivated by electoral politics “blatantly false.”

“Look at the history of this. He does an HBCU every year and we did Howard, Delaware State. And he’s busy with Morehouse,” Richmond said. “But if you do it once a year, one is always going to fall in an election year.”

Lonnie White, a junior sociology and film student, predicted protests when Biden visited.

“The student union is not going for it. We don’t want Biden on our campus and we will make that known,” he said. “We’ll definitely let you know.”

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