Michael Shermer, a recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from Brandies University, sent a blistering letter to Brandeis University president Fred Lawrence regarding the university's decision to rescind offering Ayaan Hirsi Ali an Honorary Doctorate. Shermer is the Publisher and Executive Director of the Scientific American.
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Dear Dr. Lawrence,
I am sure by now you are being inundated with criticism in response to your decision to renege on your offer to bestow upon Ayaan Hirsi Ali an Honorary Doctorate.
I have received an Honorary Doctorate myself, so I know how important they are to both the recipient and the university. But in offering, and then retracting your offer, you have double shamed yourself and your university, because Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the Martin Luther King, Jr. of this generation of civil rights activists and champions. Imagine if you would have had the opportunity to bestow upon Dr. King an Honorary Doctorate and have him speak at your campus, and then reneged on that because of “controversial statements” he made. That is, in essence, what you’ve just done. In the not too distant future you are going to look back on this embarrassing moment and ask yourself “what was I thinking?”
Of course oppressors do not like civil rights champions calling them out on their oppression! Of course the critics of Ayaan Hirsi Ali complained to you. That’s what all enemies of civil rights do—silence those who expose them and their oppression—and of all institutions who should understand that, it is Brandeis.
I implore you, before it is too late, to reverse this shameful course of action, issue an apology, and invite Ayaan Hirsi Ali back to receive what she well deserves for her work in doing more to help women around the world than anyone else alive today. Show some courage in standing up for women, and show women around the world that Brandeis University is not the type of institution that does not kowtow to religious bigotry.
Monthly Columnist, Scientific American
Brandeis University has previously awarded honorary degrees to known anti-Semites, Tony Kushner and Desmond Tutu.