[Update: The honors have been revoked!] URI President Marc Parlange has sent a letter to the board of trustees asking that they revoke the honorary degrees awarded to Michael Flynn and Rudy Giuliani. The board will be voting tomorrow, Friday. (Come on people, this one is easy.)
I had written about this issue last September, urging alums and Rhode Islanders to contact the president’s office about revoking Flynn’s honor (the last time you will see those two words next to each other). I wrote again at the end of the month when Stephen Colbert was appearing at Alumni Weekend. But I simply had no memory of Giuliani’s also being a recipient of an honorary degree — the “Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa — back in 2003 under President Carothers. From the WPRI report:
Parlange argued that Flynn’s suggestion that a military coup was needed in the United States and the fact Giuliani has been suspended from practicing law because of his unfounded claims of fraud during the 2020 election are among the reasons why they shouldn’t keep their honorary degrees.
“As a civic institution, URI has the privilege and responsibility to sustain and preserve American democracy by inspiring and modeling good citizenship,” Parlange wrote. “Revoking these honorary degrees reinforces our values and allows us to lead with truth and integrity.”
And by showing no favor to a native Rhode Islander, we can send a message to the country that this is an institution that stands for something.
So thank you President Parlange for doing the right thing, unlike your spineless (possibly worse) predecessor — since retired to Montana — who actively refused all requests to rescind the honorary degree. From the ProJo:
The recommendation by URI President Marc Parlange, who arrived here in August, is an about-face from former URI President David M. Dooley, who did not forward a recommendation to the board of trustees regarding Flynn’s honorary degree.
At the time, URI spokeswoman Linda Acciardo said the trustees did not take a position on this issue.
“He is not forwarding a recommendation to the trustees,” Acciardo said last summer. “The degree stands.”
Let’s not forget how questionable Dooley’s honor to Flynn was at the time. By 2014, as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Flynn was giving lectures on leadership at the Moscow headquarters of the Russian military intelligence directorate. The WashPo noted at the time that Flynn was universally disliked and distrusted:
Critics said that his management style could be chaotic and that the scope of his plans met resistance from both superiors and subordinates. At the same time, his tenure was marked by significant turbulence, including the fallout from the classified intelligence files leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, as well as other emerging crises.
President Parlange concluded in his letter:
As a civic institution, URI has the privilege and responsibility to sustain and preserve American democracy by inspiring and modeling good citizenship. Revoking these honorary degrees reinforces our values and allows us to lead with truth and integrity.