Commencement this December will be welcomed with four additions to the list of honorary doctoral degree recipients from the University—at least one of these recipients has questionable relations.
Of these four esteemed individuals, three attended the university in one form or another, according The University Record. Susan Baer, member of Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court and feminist legal theory expert, received her masters of laws degree from U-M; Ralph Cicerone, United Nations Environment Program Ozone Award recipient, served U-M as a researcher where he and his colleague’s work was later cited in the work that helped folks win the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry; and Nobel laureate, Hamilton Smith, member of U-M’s Medical Center Alumni Society Hall of Honor, conducted his postdoctoral research at U-M’s Department of Human Genetics.
So what exactly is the relation of the fourth recipient to the University of Michigan? Ret. Major General Charles Bolden Jr. is a strong supporter of affirmative action policies and even wrote an Amici Curia supporting the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies in the 2003 Supreme Court hearings of Bollinger v. Grutter and Bollinger v. Gratz. The University of Michigan would go on to lose the Gratz case, with the Supreme Court holding that U-M’s admissions policy violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
While Bolden’s only relation to this university is through this amici curia, he certainly has achieved a great deal. Bolden is the first African-American man to have been appointed as a NASA administrator, he commanded two space missions for NASA, and during his service for the U.S. Marine Corps he was awarded both the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Defense Superior Service. However, it may be considered rather suspicious that such a staunch supporter of affirmative action policies (specifically at this University) receives an honorary doctoral degree—especially since it has been this University’s policy to award degrees to those who reflect its position on race and identity. Look towards Michele Norris. She received her honorary degree the same year LSA enacted its theme Race Card Project™.
Now the last thing anyone wants to do is categorize these individuals as undeserving of such an honor (i.e. receiving these degrees). Everyone mentioned here has achieved remarkable feats—regardless of racial or gender identity. The issue here is with U-M’s obvious stance on affirmative action policies and the attempts of folks at this University to continually award those who support such programs. No one can deny that pushes still exist at this school for implementing mandatory race and ethnicity requirements to students of every major and school, and one only needs to look towards BAMN’s unrelenting (sometimes juvenile and disrespectful) presence on this campus to highlight affirmative action’s never-ending dialogue at U-M. The courts have ruled several times against affirmative action policies. Isn’t it about time the University of Michigan realizes this and drops the subject?