NU won't award Rev. Wright honorary degree

May 1, 2008 4:38:06 PM PDT
Northwestern University has rescinded an offer of an honorary degree to Barack Obama's former pastor. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright was supposed to receive an honorary doctorate in sacred theology at commencement ceremonies next month in Evanston. But apparently in March, the university president phoned the preacher and said the school had changed its mind.

That would be around the time videos of Wright surfaced on the Internet, which led to a firestorm of controversy for the Illinois senator's presidential candidacy. After first distancing himself from Wright's remarks, Obama forcefully disavowed his former pastor and spiritual guide after Wright made more controversial remarks on Sunday and Monday.

"That's a show of disrespect to me. It's also, I think, an insult to what we've been trying to do in this campaign," said Obama.

The university, which has invited talk show host Jerry Springer to address its law school graduating class this year, said in a statement, "Commencement at Northwestern is a time of celebration of the accomplishments of Northwestern graduating students and their families. In light of the controversy around Dr. Wright and to ensure that the celebratory character of commencement not be affected, the university has withdrawn its invitation to Dr. Wright."

About a dozen people receive honorary degrees there annually, and this year's list hasn't been announced. While school officials declined on-camera interviews, students and faculty on this widely pro-Obama campus seemed displeased about their school's choice.

"Well, I am a Barack Obama supporter. I agree with the way he handled the situation. But I do question the motives of why NU would decide to not give it. Was it a political decision or what that would be?" said Lisa DeLeon, history major.

"I don't think it was right for them to take it away because of something the media decided to distort," said Jeremiah Tillman, Social and Economic Policy major.

"It is not a good thing to do for an academic university. But at the same time, it is still, I mean, it feels like we are picking sides, which I don't know if I agree with or not," said Kelsey Betzelberger, Voice and Religion major.

"Trying to avoid controversy, simply to avoid controversy is never a good thing for an educational institution," said Nathan Mead, graduate program coordinator.

Reverend Wright was unable to be reached Thursday by ABC7 and when asked, the Obama campaign said it had no comment on the non-awarding of the honorary degree.

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