Press Release – No Honorary Degree for Andy Card

May 21, 2007


Based on information that has been revealed in the past week, a coalition of faculty, staff, and students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are demanding that the decision to award an honorary degree to Andrew Card, Jr. be reversed. Card was the White House Chief of Staff from 2000 to 2006, and headed the White House Iraq Group.

In the past week, a spate of media reports have revealed Card’s central role in pushing through illegal wiretapping policies. The Washington Post and New York Times reported Card’s 2004 attempt to bypass the acting attorney general and coerce the ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft to approve an extensive wiretapping initiative. Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified about how Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card visited an unresponsive Ashcroft in his hospital bed, asking him to allow wiretapping that Ashcroft himself considered unconstitutional. “Card was leading the effort to undermine the rule of law and to deceive the public. This vividly demonstrates the reasons behind the growing outrage at UMass among faculty, students and staff,” said Sigrid Schmalzer, a faculty member and member of the ad-hoc coalition that is opposing an honorary degree for Andrew Card.

Last week, Card telephoned two UMass faculty members to challenge their claims about his intellectual dishonesty. “Do you even know me?” he asked. Insisting that he deserved a doctoral degree from UMass recognizing his commitment to public service, Card repeatedly denied having violated federal and international law and misleading the public about the war in Iraq.

As a result of the new information, on Thursday, May 17, the UMass Amherst Faculty Senate voted 31-0 to revoke the honorary degree to Card. Faculty pointed out that students who acted as Card did — changing facts to support their opinions – would be convicted of violating the university’s academic honesty policy and punished, rather than receiving an honorary degree.

In a series of rallies and demonstrations, hundreds of students and faculty have protested the award. Within a week, over 400 faculty members signed a letter asking the university to immediately revoke the offer to Card. According to University of Massachusetts Policy Doc. T93-060, “only persons of great accomplishment and high ethical standards who exemplify the ideals of the University of Massachusetts” are eligible to receive an honorary degree. Off the record, administrators have said that Card’s degree was offered in return for his help securing federal funding for major UMass research initiatives in the sciences.

The UMass Amherst protests against Card have received national attention. National blogs including Daily Kos have featured the story prominently, sparking heated debate over UMass’s decision. “The public record on Card’s actions should persuade the University to rescind the offer of an honorary degree,” said Steven Brewer, a faculty member in the Biology Department and Faculty Senator. “His behavior does not exemplify the high ethical standards that the University of Massachusetts should celebrate.”

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