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Honorary degree for a man with no honor

By Charles Peterson and Sarah Beladi | May 25, 2007 | Page 12

THE UNIVERSITY OF Massachusetts administration's plan to award former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card with an honorary degree has sparked protests of hundreds over the last two weeks, with plans for further action as Socialist Worker went to press.

The honor for Card is widely opposed on campus because of Card's role on the White House Iraq Group, which concocted the strategy to sell the disastrous invasion of Iraq to the public.

More than 500 people gathered for a rally May 15 after the administration refused to change its position on the award for Card. Fearing a repeat of the previous week's demonstration, when students marched through the Whitmore administration building, chanting angrily, and dropped off hundreds of signatures on an anti-Card petition, the administration shut down the building.

Denied entry to the administration building, the more than 500 protesters marched to the Goodel building, home of the offices of the dean of the graduate school. The demonstrators demanded to meet with the dean and sat in for roughly half an hour. When police were called in, they protesters marched out of the building and returned to Whitmore to continue rallying.

At Whitmore, the protesters encountered Vice Chancellor Mike Gargano, who was forced to make a statement on whether administrators had reconsidered their position. He said they would take more petitions, but "the decision...remains the same." To this, the crowd responded with a deafening chorus of "Resign! Resign!"

What you can do

You can see video coverage of the May 15 protest at UMass at Traprock Peace TV, on the Traprock Peace Center Web site.

To protest the honorary degree for Card, sign an internet petition, and call University President Jack Wilson at 617-287-7050.

Activists are invited to come to the protest during the graduate commencement. Meet on May 25 at 12 Noon at Mullins Center on the UMass campus.

 

Card knows very well that he faces opposition on campus--when he gave a lecture in April, he faced a protest that he acknowledged in his speech.

When Card was informed by administrators of the opposition on campus to his degree, he contacted a faculty member, Paula Chakravartty, involved in organizing the protests against him to complain.

Chakravartty said Card insisted that he was a "nice guy," and that protesters didn't know anything about him personally. When Chakravartty explained that the opposition wasn't personal, but because of his public record, particularly his role in selling the Iraq war, his only response was: "I have been invited to receive this great honor, and I am not rude."

On May 17, the UMass faculty senate met to consider a motion to oppose Card's degree--putting them on record along with the the Student Government Association and Graduate Student Senate. The Senate vote to revoke the degree 31-0, but it was declared void because the body was one vote of having enough senators present for official business to be conducted--the result of the one pro-Card senator leaving the meeting rather than vote against the motion.

The protests against Card won't stop. Momentum is building for a week's worth of events, with a rally planned for May 22 on the UMass campus, followed by a protest at President Jack Wilson's office in Boston the next day--all leading to a protest of Card at the commencement on May 25.

By awarding an honorary degree to a man completely without honor, the UMass administration has stirred protests by hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members. All members of the UMass community are drawing links between the Iraq war that Card championed--and a campus administration that gives itself raises while hiking fees and slashing opportunities for working-class students.

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