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May 30, 2009

the T-J seems to have misplaced the letter to the editor I sent them yesterday. No doubt a mere oversight. I reproduce it here in case they don’t find it:

I couldn’t agree more with Lisa Keenan’s conclusion (“Give thanks that wiser heads prevailed at UNB,” May 29/09) that UNB needs to revisit its policy of awarding honourary degrees to sitting politicians, and indeed a group of faculty has already produced a proposal. Nor, I suppose, can one blame Ms. Keenan for the misleading headline, all part of the, might I say it, hysterical reaction to people exercising their right to … write a letter. But the letter did not, as Ms. Keenan suggests, ask that the Board of Governors rescind the degree; it merely said that the signatories disassociated themselves from this particular action of their university. No threats of disruption, no calls for burning Dr. Graham in effigy in the quad. Just a simple statement: “we don’t agree.”

I am mystified when commentators like Ms. Keenan decry the signatories for “politicizing” the issue. Why on earth do they think the Premier was awarded the degree in the first place? Some — let’s hope most — honourary degrees are awarded to recognize significant accomplishments. Others are obviously “political.”

And “politics” is not necessarily a four-letter-word. Some may confuse it with “party-politics,” which often does seem like a curse. But politics in a broader sense mean the ways in which groups of people make decisions. Are we so used to handing off all the decision-making power to others that the sight of a group exercising their right to debate, to disagree, even in as modest a form as an open letter, causes this level of consternation?

I think we all need to get out more. Get out, talk to each other, and live more fully as engaged citizens.


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