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Bush Protest Letter Finalized

Below is the final version of the faculty’s letter of protest concerning the College’s decision to grant an honorary degree to George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States. Included are the names of its 79 signatories; as of last fall, the College had 1,004 faculty members.

May 31, 2011

To: President Jim Kim and the Board of Trustees

The undersigned members of the faculty have learned with surprise that at the upcoming commencement ceremony, Dartmouth College will award an honorary degree to former President George Herbert Walker Bush. Dartmouth has recognized former presidents with honorary degrees, and no president is free of controversy. Presumably the Council on Honorary Degrees expects that choices of current or former American presidents will invite a certain amount of comment from the faculty and from the public. While we honor President Bush’s military service and appreciate his efforts for humanitarian causes since he left office, we believe his record as a politician is difficult to reconcile with the values for which Dartmouth stands.

President Bush launched his political career in 1963 as a Goldwater Republican aggressively campaigning against civil rights legislation while denouncing Medicare as “socialistic.” As a CIA director under Gerald Ford and as Ronald Reagan’s Vice President in the 1970s and 1980s, he was not only involved in illegal operations in Central America that left countless dead but also in the Iran-Contra scandal. As President, he prevented full investigation of that affair by the Independent Counsel, which he famously described as a “criminalization of policy differences.” His campaign for Vice President in 1984 was marked by invocation of crude misogyny. And who can forget the deplorable Willie Horton attack ads exploiting racial sentiments in his 1988 campaign against Michael Dukakis? These and other actions before and during his presidency cannot be ignored.

We respectfully ask that the College review its policies on honorary degrees and commencement speakers. The issue is of course not unique to Dartmouth. For various reasons, a competitive dynamic has developed among colleges and universities in which non-academic interests and a search for celebrities threaten to take over. As faculty, we are concerned that our role in the selection process of what is after all an academic honor has become a relatively minor one. A frank discussion here at Dartmouth would be helpful to prevent alienating a significant part of the faculty, the students, and their families in the future.


Walter Simons, History
Irene Kacandes, German Studies and Comparative Literature
Lawrence Kritzman, French and Italian, and Comparative Literature
Douglas Haynes, History
Jonathan Crewe, English
Jeremy Rutter, Classics (Emeritus)
Jean Kim, History
Lee Witters, Medicine, Biochemistry, and Biological Sciences
Annelise Orleck, History
Miles Blencowe, Physics and Astronomy
James Aronson, Earth Sciences
Charles Cole, Biochemistry and Genetics
Gregory McHugo, Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center
Carl Pomerance, Mathematics
Rebecca Biron, Spanish and Portuguese, and Comparative Literature
Elsa Garmire, Thayer School of Engineering
Lauren Clarke, Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program
Lynn Higgins, French and Italian
Michelle Warren, Comparative Literature
Graziella Parati, French and Italian, and Comparative Literature
Gerd Gemunden, German Studies, and Film and Media Studies
George Edmondson, English
Mary Coffey, Art History
Roger Sloboda, Biological Sciences
John Donaghy, Writing
Laura Edmondson, Theater
John Lamperti, Mathematics (Emeritus)
Jennifer Fluri, Geography, and Women’s and Gender Studies
William W. Nichols, Writing
Monika Otter, English and Comparative Literature
Lorenza Viola, Physics and Astronomy
Silvia Spitta, Spanish and Comparative Literature
David Lemal, Chemistry
Rodolfo Franconi, Spanish and Portuguese
Nancy Crumbine, English
Naaborko Sackeyfio, History
Melissa Zeiger, History
Roberta Stewart, Classics
Katherine Kretler, Classics and Philosophy
David Montgomery, Physics and Astronomy (Emeritus)
Susannah Heschel, Religion and Jewish Studies
Margaret Williamson, Classics
Marcelo Gleiser, Physics and Astronomy
Marsha Swislocki, Spanish and Portuguese
Martin Arkowitz, Mathematics
David LaGuardia, French and Italian, and Comparative Literature
Beatriz Pastor, Spanish and Portuguese, and Comparative Literature
Carolyn Gordon, Mathematics
Susan Blader, Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures
Dwight Lahr, Mathematics
Giavanna Munafo, Women’s and Gender Studies
Raàºl Bueno-Chavez, Spanish and Portuguese
Peter Winkler, Mathematics and Computer Science
Cleopatra Mathis, English
Diana Abouali, Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures
Susanne Freidberg, Geography, and African and African American Studies
Tanalà­s Padilla, History
Laura Conkey, Geography
Albert Erives, Biological Sciences
Russell Rickford, History
Aimee Bahng, English
Robert Cantor, Chemistry
Jay Lawrence, Physics and Astronomy
Keala Jewell, French and Italian, and Comparative Literature
Colin Calloway, History
Ivy Schweitzer, English
Alexander Barnett, Mathematics
Misagh Parsa, Sociology, and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
James Dorsey, Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures
Annabel Martà­n, Spanish and Portuguese, and Comparative Literature
Shelby Grantham, English
Joseph B. Nelson, History (Emeritus)
Antonio Tillis, African and African American Studies
Ronald M. Green, Religion, and Ethics Institute
Andrew Garrod, Education (Emeritus)
Sergi Elizalde, Mathematics
Mona Domosh, Geography
Pamela Crossley, History, and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Ellen Rockmore, Institute for Writing, Research and Rhetoric


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