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Episcopal-owned university revokes disgraced journalist Charlie Rose’s honorary degree

Posted on: March 22, 2018 9:25 AM
Charlie Rose addresses graduates as he receives his honorary degree from Sewanee: the University of the South in May 2016
Photo Credit: University of the South

After months of pressure from students and staff, authorities at Sewanee: The University of the South, has revoked the honorary degree it had previously awarded to broadcast journalist Charlie Rose. The protests follow accusations from eight women who worked with Rose that they had sexually harassed them. The allegations were reported in the Washington Post and led to Rose being dropped by broadcasters PBS, Bloomberg and CBS.

Rose has apologised for his “inappropriate behaviour” and admitted that he had “behaved insensitively at times,” but said that he disputes the accuracy of some of the allegations.

Sewanee: The University of the South is co-owned by 28 dioceses of the US-based Episcopal Church. The honorary degree was awarded to Charlie Rose in May 2016 to recognise his achievements in journalism. Until the Charlie Rose furore arose in November last year, it had no procedure for dealing with the revocation of degrees. It has now developed a system which mirrors the process used to award them.

“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,” the university said in a statement.

“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 recognised that it occasionally may be necessary for the University to consider the revocation of an honorary degree held by a still-living recipient.”

Mirroring the process for the awarding of honorary degrees, proposed revocations will be considered by university’s Board of Regents, its Senate, and the Joint Regent-Senate Committee on Honorary Degrees. The Board of Regents has the final authority in the revocation of a degree.

In its statement, the university said that the Joint Regent-Senate Committee voted to recommend revocation of the honorary degree conferred upon Charlie Rose on 11 March. Later that week, the University voted to recommend revocation. The Board of Regents met on 20 March and also agreed with the revocation. Detailed voting figures have not been released, but the university says that each of the three bodies carried agreed with the revocation with the required two-thirds majority.

Last month, the vice-chancellor of Sewanee: The University of the South, John McCardell, moved to reassure students that it “has steadfastly stood and continues to stand against sexual misconduct of any sort on the campus and in the workplace” in light of on-campus protests.