A degree of emptiness

(This was posted in 2010. Update from 2015: RGU strips Donald Trump of honorary degree)

HMS Trump (from Wikimedia Commons)

An educational institution in north-east Scotland has decided to award Donald Trump an honorary Doctorate of Business Administration, provoking quite a lot of controversy. I was one of those who felt controversed, so I decided to write to their Head of Communications:

Dear [name removed just in case],

I just wanted to express my disappointment at the honorary degree being awarded to Donald Trump by RGU. I realize that universities are in the publicity game, such that handing out free qualifications to notorious individuals can be seen as a means of raising one’s profile, but RGU does not need to sully its excellent reputation in this way.

I am also startled that the RGU press release describes a man who is bulldozing a site of special scientific interest as having “vision”. This is the sort of logic that would see Trump lauded for knocking down Dunnottar Castle and replacing it with a wrestling arena.

Yours in disillusionment,
Liam Herringshaw

I knew it would make no difference, but as a Leicester City supporter I am used to engaging with futile causes, so I sent it anyway. I certainly didn't expect to get a response:

Dear Dr Herringshaw

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the honorary award we’re making to Mr Trump.

While we understand and respect that individuals will have differing views regarding the decisions we make regarding honorary degrees we are very clear about our reasons for recognising Mr Trump in this way.

Business and entrepreneurship are key parts of the University’s offering to students and Mr Trump is recognised world-wide as a businessmen / entrepreneur. He is also undertaking a major development in the north east of Scotland at a time when the local economy needs to diversify. Given that he now has a strong local connection to Aberdeen, the University felt it was appropriate to bestow this award.

I hope that this gives you an insight into the reasoning behind our decision even if you do not agree with it.

Yours sincerely

[name removed again just in case]
Head of Communications

Trump will collect his reward on Friday, and RGU will get the publicity they crave, but it is all a rather sorry affair. Still, I am pleasantly surprised that he took the time to reply to me, as it does make me feel that some consideration of the award has taken place.

P.S. I should retrospectively take issue with the comment that Trump's monster golf course counts towards the diversification of the Aberdeenshire economy. The Royal Aberdeen Golf Club traces its history back to 1780, whilst Fraserburgh Golf Club claims to have been established three years earlier than that. Surely opening another version of a business that has been operating for well over two hundred years is pretty much the opposite of diversification?
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