The alumnus of folly
On April 22, 2007 -- the day after the British National Union of Journalists voted to boycott Israeli goods -- "a result that met with gasps and a small amount of applause from the union delegates present", the New Zimbabwe ran a story about one British and two American universities agonizing over whether or not to rescind honorary degrees they had bestowed upon Robert Mugabe.
Edinburgh University in Scotland and the United States’ University of Massachusetts and Michigan State University are considering recalling the honorary doctorate of laws degrees they conferred on Robert Mugabe. ...
The New Zimbabwe argued that Mugabe should be allowed to keep their degrees. Not because he deserved them, but because the universities deserved him.
Robert Mugabe’s honorary degrees should stay. They represent a period of madness in history where a genocidal dictator went on the rampage and the international community, the West in particular, either looked the other way or cheered him on. Any university that respects human rights should never ever have awarded Mugabe an honorary degree during the 1980s or any other period. ...
New Zimbabwe argued that even as Mugabe was mounting the stage to receive his accolades the universities should have known -- it is by definition their business to know -- that they were placing their diplomas in bloodstained hands.
These atrocities continued in 1984, the year Edinburgh University awarded Mugabe an honorary doctorate of law. The New York Times of June 21 even reported that “Robert Mugabe’s supporters went on a rampage and killed five supporters of Joshua Nkomo in Kwekwe”. ...
In 1986, the year the University of Massachusetts awarded Mugabe an honorary doctorate of law degree, the New York-based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights reported that Mugabe’s forces continued the “systematic campaign of terror and repression against the minority Ndebele-speaking people…”
Michigan State University honored Mugabe in 1990, the same year Zanu PF supporters unleashed Gukurahundi-style violence on supporters of the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM) during the general election. Five candidates were murdered.
Those considering rescinding the degrees are simply trying to rewrite history and absolve themselves from culpability. They are engaging in a spectacular act in self-cleansing and self-exoneration.
How often have the self-appointed been certain they were on the winning side of history. But as Seth Lloyd notes in his book on quantum computing, freedom and contingency take a hand in determining the outcome. The future has not been written.
The quantum-computational nature of the universe dictates that the details of the future are intrinsically unpredictable. They can be computed only by a computer the size of the universe itself. Otherwise, the only way to discover the future is to wait and see what happens.
Academia, meet Robert Mugabe.