If you check the papers these days, you’ll notice they’re full of young and not-so-young people wearing dark gowns and funny hats, grinning with delight. Beside them family members, grinning even more widely. Good for them. When I had students, I’d duck attending the graduation ceremonies (the essence of tedium and lies) and emerge to congratulate and meet parents. They deserve their big day, even if it includes silly hats, processions and speeches.
But it’s not the graduation ceremonies that I want to bludgeon today. It’s the free degrees. Normal students have to work for years if they want a degree (I know – I’ve got five and it was hellish hard labour all the way); but if you’re famous, the university will give you one FOR NOTHING.
Take Roy Keane, for example. A fine midfielder, a fierce tackler, a good laugh as a manager. So what does the University of Ulster (or was it Queen’s) do? They make him a Doctor of Law. Eh? Say that again. Roy knows NOTHING about the law of the land but the university says ‘Here, Roy. Take this scroll, it testifies that you know lots and lots about law’. Likewise with politicians and politicians’ wives and ageing rock stars and TV actors and…On it goes.
Why, if a university thinks someone is a valuable member of the community, don’t they give them a medal or a scroll that says ‘We think you’re doing a great job’. There’d be some logic to that. But not a scroll that says ‘’You’ve studied for four or five years and are now a learned person in this area’, when in fact they know damn all about the area and the university knows they know damn all.
One day, I know, a student will stand up as the latest TV personality approaches to receive their Doctorate in Literature, and will shout “Goddamn it! I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” and will rush to the stage and rip the scroll from the honorary ( aka phony) doctor’s hands. Now that’s a graduation ceremony I’d be glad to sit in on.