Bill Cosby has been making national headlines for a couple years now after the details of decades of sexual abuse surfaced, but lately the Cosby news has gone local as RPI announced the College would revoke his honorary degree that he received in 2001.
And that news alone isn’t all that shocking or new at all. Many of schools have revoked degrees from many’a celebrities over time. But it got me thinking, why do celebrities get honorary degrees in the first place?
I mean, before I even do any research, it seems a little unfair, doesn’t it? If you went to college to earn a degree, you’d agree it was pretty exhausting. Financially, emotionally, mentally, physically, literally every -ally word you can think of would describe how much college takes out of you.
And these celebrities who yes, worked very hard to get to where they are today, do NOT have to work at all to receive an honorary degree. And what does it even represent?
Here’s what I learned from a somewhat legit/somewhat sketchy website called Priceonomics:
Unlike the students, these luminaries are given a free pass: universities allow them to bypass all of the usual requirements. Though these degrees are more ornamental than functional, the practice of handing them out stems from a somewhat ignoble past.
For more than 500 years, the honorary degree has provided an opportunity for colleges to build relationships with the rich, famous, and well-connected, in hopes of securing financial donations and cheap publicity.
Well, that hits the nail on the head, doesn’t it? I mean of course they don’t have to do any work for the degree since it is in name, “honorary.” But why do they need the degree then? Does that mean they get to say they have the knowledge and experience of someone who earned the degree for real?
These celebs, on the surface, have it all. So WHY do they need this degree that the rest of us average people have to pay A LOT of money for? Is it really going to add to their resumes all that much? Yeah, this started with Bill Cosby, but it doesn’t end there. I think we should just revoke these things overall since colleges use honorary degrees as a networking tool but STILL ask alumni for donations…
You have to watch the most recent John Mulaney standup special where he perfectly describes how it feels to be asked for money by your college –it’s exactly what I think of when I’m getting all fired up about these honorary degrees! I think it’s in his SNL cold open too, but you have to watch to find out because my time is limited, people.
Also, for the record, how do these schools decide who to honor? I mean, Bill Cosby had an honorary degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology. I know “Cosby Sweaters” were a popular phrase for a while, but really? A fashion school?
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