The Mail: 11/18-11/25

If you're going to attack Hopkins, attack the emptiness of honorary doctorates

I am as nauseated as the next woman about what I have come to believe about Bill Cosby (Baltimore City Power Rankings, Nov. 4). The key phrase here is "come to believe." Criticizing JHU in a snide, superior tone about their delay in repealing their honorary doctorate to Cosby is a kind of knee-jerk, witch-hunt, court-of-public-opinion position that City Paper might want to avoid if you want to preserve integrity. I get that people are frustrated because a likely monster is escaping criminal justice—but JHU is not wrong to consider a closer examination before acting. Knowing and believing are very important distinctions that are all too often glossed over. This is how you get so many wrongful convictions. Just because there seems to be so much evidence doesn't mean that people like you or me are in a position to know.

To be sure, I am not the least bit interested in the integrity of the honorary doctorates that are given so liberally to celebrities with excellent speech writers—especially after my disappointing experience of trying to get a local university to give an honorary doctorate to an esteemed colleague who dedicated his career to ending homelessness rather than academia. It's folks like Jeff Singer who should get honorary doctorates—not the Bill Cosbys or Ellen DeGenereses of the world. Nevertheless, I think the court of public opinion is a much greater wrong than the awarding of degrees to the undeserving.

Jan Caughlan

Catonsville

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