Sewanee revokes honorary degree given to Charlie Rose

Statement from the University of the South

The University of the South has revoked the honorary degree it previously awarded to broadcast journalist Charlie Rose, after creating a procedure under which it could do so.

In the new four-step process, a written request for the revocation of an honorary degree was submitted to the vice-chancellor, who shared it with and received approval from the Joint Regent-Senate Committee on Honorary Degrees, the University Senate, and the Board of Regents, in that order.

Background:

The University of the South awarded an honorary degree to Charlie Rose in May 2016. An honorary degree is awarded to recognize achievement by leaders in a wide variety of fields, after a review of lifetime accomplishments known at the time it is awarded.

In its 150-year history, the University had never revoked an honorary degree, nor, until very recently, did it have a process to do so. The Joint Regent-Senate Committee on Honorary Degrees developed a process this month for the orderly review of an honorary degree once awarded. This action followed requests to rescind Rose’s honorary degree from students, faculty, and members of the Board of Trustees, and recognized that it occasionally may be necessary for the University to consider the revocation of an honorary degree held by a still-living recipient.

Under this new process, the groups responsible for the revocation of an honorary degree are the same groups responsible for considering the conferral of such a degree: the Board of Regents, the University Senate, and the Joint Regent-Senate Committee on Honorary Degrees. The Board of Regents, in accord with its role in granting honorary degrees, has the final authority in the revocation of a degree.

Accordingly, on March 11, the Joint Regent-Senate Committee voted by a two-thirds majority to recommend revocation of the honorary degree conferred upon Charlie Rose. The University Senate later that week voted to recommend revocation, also by a two-thirds majority of its membership. The vice-chancellor conveyed that recommendation to the Board of Regents, which met on March 20. A two-thirds majority of that Board was also required for the revocation of the degree.

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