One of the more bizarre trends that I have covered this year has been the distribution of phony awards to high level crony political oligarchs either for PR purposes or for money. I thought I had seen it all a couple of weeks ago when I read that Jeb Bush was set to present the “Liberty Medal” to Hillary Clinton.
Apparently the University of Denver was not to be outdone, as they planned to give the “Improving Human Condition” award to none other than George W. Bush! Thankfully, considerable outrage has led the University to rethink its choice, but it is inexcusable to begin with. It is not only an embarrassment to the University of Denver, but also to the entire state of Colorado, my adopted home. From the Huffington Post:
Hundreds of students, staffers and alumni are protesting the University of Denver’s decision to honor former President George W. Bush with an award traditionally recognizing recipients for their work on behalf of humanity.
“It’s been mostly just a lot of surprise,” Seth Masket, associate professor of Political Science said of the award to be bestowed by the University’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies.
The school hosts the Korbel Dinner to present the award each year. In June, the Sept. 9 dinner was announced and invitations circulated both by mail and on the school’s website, pictured below, saying the 43rd president would be welcomed and honored as the 2013 recipient of the “Improving the Human Condition Award.”
On June 25, award protestor Taylor Gibson signed the petition and beseeched Korbel Dean Christopher Hill, “Don’t make a mockery of my degree.” The next day, Kiela Parks, an alumna and former employee at the University’s Office of Alumni and External Relations employee who worked at the 2011 and 2012 Korbel dinners, signed onto the movement.
Shortly thereafter, Dean Hill – who served as U.S. ambassador to Poland and Korea under Bush – sent around an email to faculty explaining the decision to honor his former boss. The email was written largely in response to the public controversy sparked by the petition as well as general conversation taking place among the Korbel community.
Hill did not address the sudden removal of the name of the award from the website. He wrote that the school was still searching for an appropriate title for the award to be given to Bush – “probably along the lines of ‘The Chancellor’s Award’ or the ‘Presidential Award’ or something similar.”
As made clear in Hill’s email and on the website, the annual dinner is the school’s biggest fundraising event. It draws significant contributions for research, scholarships, internships and other student and faculty needs.
Dean Hill didn’t immediately respond to messages left by The Colorado Independent with his office at 5 p.m. last night. At 6 p.m., however, his office sent out a letter to members of the DU community about the award.
“Initially we chose the title ‘Improving the Human Condition’ – a phrase that has been in the Josef Korbel School lexicon for several years,” she said. “We realize that this name does not clearly communicate the purpose of this recognition,” which, she explained, is why the school is in the process of choosing a new name for the award.
Hill addressed those criticisms in his email. “We live in difficult times in which fundamental institutions such as the presidency are sometimes not respected,” he wrote.
That last line says it all. We live in a country where all of our institutions are so obsessed with the bottom line that even “places of higher learning” do not hesitate for a moment in prostituting themselves out for an extra dollar. Even George Orwell would blush at this one.
Full article here.
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