Honorary degrees bestow empty accolades

Honorary degrees

Matteo Marjoram | Daily Trojan

During USC’s graduation ceremony, a certain governor of California made a speech that entertained and awed, proving the somewhat-obvious fact that the Governator already knows how to work a crowd. Sadly, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has yet to figure out how to lower a constantly mounting state deficit, and there is no pretending that a bazooka can blow that away.

Yet, during the commencement ceremony, Schwarzenegger was given an honorary degree from USC. Whether or not a successful career portraying a cyborg assassin and apparent political aspirations turned stark reality garner an “honorary degree” is debatable. But, no harm, no foul. Let Arny have his degree — after all, charisma takes people places. Well, most of the time.

In contrast is President Barack Obama, a graduate of Harvard Law, a former senator of Illinois and the first Black president in U.S. history. According to Arizona State University, however, his “body of work” is still forthcoming and therefore didn’t merit an honorary degree during the ASU commencement proceedings. Obama gave the speech and went about his day without a degree to show for it.

ASU is often known for its raucous parties, if not its stellar academics — in an interview with Jason Jones of “The Daily Show,” a student called ASU the “Harvard of scholastics,” to which Jones  responded with the obvious retort: “Wouldn’t that be Harvard?” Meanwhile, a man who has topped multiple milestones decided to speak at this center for knowledge and, in return, found no love. Is it possible that Obama’s non-existent degree is representative of  Arizona’s bitterness? After all, a certain senator from the Grand Canyon state was defeated last November.

Making ASU look even more foolish in comparison, the University of Notre Dame gave the president an honorary doctorate later in the week. The school did so against the wishes of many of its alumni and current students, who oppose Obama’s stance on abortion. Yet, even amid this controversy, the school didn’t refuse Obama a degree — realizing, perhaps, that a degree that carries the school’s seal doesn’t necessarily carry the clout of the institution, especially when all the degree holder did at the school was speak at a commencement ceremony.

Meanwhile, many students in attendance at the Tempe commencement ceremony battled through raging hangovers to hear the president speak. Hopefully, ASU and any other biased universities will learn that honorary degrees are more pomp and circumstance than watermarks of achievement.

It’s difficult to say whether or not Obama will ever come to USC to receive the same treatment Schwarzenegger did — I’m sure there were a few parents and graduates who would have much rather heard him speak. In the meantime, there’s always hoping that good old W. will stop by. He’s earned it.

Dustin Jacobs is a graduate student studying cinema-television production.