Explain, Doctor Leggett

Thursday afternoon in Jock Harty Arena, Principal Leggett will bestow an honourary doctorate degree on Catherine Brooks for her lifetime of work in aboriginal women’s shelters.

The moment he does so, he will also dishonour all of Queen’s University.

At least, that’s what many are screaming.

Anger has erupted after Brooks was announced as an honouree despite the fact that, a month before the announcement, an inquest found Brooks partially responsible for the starvation death of an infant at Anduhyaun, the women’s shelter she both founded and directs.

As chair of the committee that grants the symbolic degrees, Leggett is the ultimate determiner of who will receive such a distinction. Now it is time for Brooks’ convocation, and Bill Leggett is mired in the stink of a public relations fiasco.

Apart from outrage over the baby’s death in Brooks’ shelter, critics are furious at Leggett for having the gall to nominate Brooks expressly for her shelter work. A look at the chronology of the degree uproar proves that Leggett must have known about Brooks’ involvement in the affair prior to her selection. And still Leggett chose to approve her selection rather than choose to honour someone else—someone who didn’t have a dead baby on her conscience.

Yes, Leggett was in a lose-lose situation and, some might say, would have gotten slammed by so-called radical feminists whether he withdrew the nomination or not, but this does not excuse his stubborn behaviour.

Yes, Leggett’s refusal to consider withdrawing Brooks’ nomination could be construed as a sign of courage on his part, but, as the degree-granting looms imminent, more and more it looks like he was just trying to save face. Leggett has exacerbated the Brooks affair by not being accountable for her nomination in the first place.

Most unfortunately, the decision to honour Brooks will tarnish not only her own symbolic degree, but also threatens to sully every other degree from this university, degrees which most students actually earn.

As it stands, May 31 may mark the first time in history a Queen’s convocation ceremony will hear boos instead of cheers.

Doctor Leggett, it’s not too late to change your mind.

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