Honorary Doctorate degrees from churches or unaccredited

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by potpourri, Sep 28, 2014.

  1. potpourri

    potpourri New Member

    I would like to know how one is suppose to interpret an individual who receives an Honorary Doctorate from a church or an unaccredited school? When I normally think of someone getting an Honorary Doctorate you normally think it would come from an accredited college or university.

    Here are some links to reference:

    Pastor Andrew Evans' Investiture:
    Pastor Andrew Evans' Investiture. - YouTube
    This individual received his Honorary Doctor of Divinity from a school that is non-accredited, but legal in the state of California.
    Established: 1969

    Rabbi James Michaels accepts honorary doctorate
    Rabbi James Michaels accepts honorary doctorate - YouTube
    This one is very interesting because it is from a foundation that has been around for many years. This organization is also non-accredited, not an educational institution, and is legal in the state of Indiana.
    Established: 1962

    I wanted to share that it's not just schools that award these type of honorariums, but that churches, religious entities, and other non-profit organizations do as well.

    When it comes to someone getting an accredited Honorary Doctorate there's no argument when it comes to those being accepted, but when it comes to entities that aren't accredited most of the majority of people would consider them not credible, and some even go so far as to label them "Diploma Mills."

    Also, please note what the Wikipedia references the following statement when it comes to the Doctor of Divinity in the United States, "Because there are no requirements, any organization may grant a Doctor of Divinity degree, and some will do so to anyone for a small fee." Doctor of Divinity - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This of course is specifically pertaining to the United States case in 1974.

    How are we to interpret these examples, and would you say that these should be accepted or how would you judge the credentials?
  2. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    No matter who it's from it's merely honorary, so I would entirely discount it for academic purposes whether it's issued by Harvard or by some storefront church down the street.
  3. potpourri

    potpourri New Member

    Interesting your post. Why do we then make a big deal out of it if it really means little as you suggest?
  4. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    Who is this "we" that you are referencing?
  5. potpourri

    potpourri New Member

    Kizmet: I will rephrase this:

    "Why do we (as a people or society) make a big deal out of it (referring to Honorary Doctorate degree) if it really means little as you (SteveFoerster) suggest?"

    The poster "SteveFoerster" also stated, "I would entirely discount it for academic purposes whether it's issued by Harvard or by some storefront church down the street."

    Some would take issue with that statement you made because Harvard is well-renowned and there would be a clear distinction.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 28, 2014
  6. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    My question was meant to highlight the fact that I believe that "we" do NOT make a big deal out of honorary doctorates. When I say this I mean that people generally recognize that these degrees are awarded for some type of contribution to society but do not reflect any academic achievement.

    "An honorary degree[1] or a degree honoris causa (Latin: "for the sake of the honor")[2] is an academic degree for which a university (or other degree-awarding institution) has waived the usual requirements, such as matriculation, residence, study and the passing of examinations. The degree is typically a doctorate or, less commonly, a master's degree, and may be awarded to someone who has no prior connection with the academic institution.[3]

    The degree is often conferred as a way of honouring a distinguished visitor's contributions to a specific field or to society in general. It is often given to graduation speakers at a university or college, and the university may derive benefits by association with the person in question. The degree is not recognized by employers as having the same stature as a corresponding earned doctorate degree and should not be represented as such. It is sometimes recommended that such degrees be listed in one's CV as an award and not in their education section,[4] and some institutions of higher education have policies on the use of the title "Dr" in formal correspondence." (Wikipedia)

    There are, of course, people who will purchase such a "degree" from a school specifically so that they can appear to have a doctoral degree. If questioned they might even say something like, "Oh yes, my Doctorate is from Knightsbridge," or somesuch in an further effort to suggest that it is an earned doctorate. These are sad people whose insecurity has eclipsed their common sense and good judgement. Most people who have been awarded honorary doctoral degrees rarely mention it.

    Celebs With Honorary Degrees | Celebrity News | Hollywood.com
  7. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

    What if the DD is issued by Oxford?
  8. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    Both Steve Foerster and Kizmet have responded well to potpourri's query.

    When awarded by an accredited academic institution the honorary doctorate is exactly what it is-the conferral of an honor. Examples from Merriam-Webster include:
    * Honorary degree
    * Honorary member of the club
    * Honorary president of the commission
    Such conferrals are not deemed as the real thing, i.e., one has not earned a degree, one is not a member of the club, not is one president of the commission. They are exactly what they state--honorary. Some accredited academic institutions have a policy of not awarding honorary degrees. In my opinion, this is a commendable policy. If all institutions had such a policy it would eliminate the confusion often caused by honorary degrees.

    In regard to the specific examples potpourri gives, the DD is an honorary doctorate most often conferred within ecclesiastical circles. This practice is unfortunate for several reasons. First, most within academic circles understand that the DD is an honorary degree. However, the average person often does not. This allows the DD to be used by less than ethical persons in ways it was never intended.

    Second, in a perfect world where every person understood that adding the DD to one’s name meant an “honorary” doctorate, perhaps the practice would not be so confusing. Since this is not the case, using the honorary degree in one’s professional life creates much confusion and misunderstanding in that the recipient is often viewed as having a “genuine” doctorate. This can be problematic on many levels.

    Third, many within ecclesiastical circles who are awarded the DD are not content to simply use the DD at the end of their name, they also want to be referenced as “Dr. John Doe.” This is seldom the case among most disciplines where honorary degrees are conferred (politics, sports, philanthropy, etc.); however, among clergy, the practice is rampant. When one is referenced as “Dr” the impression is given that the person has a genuine doctoral degree. Unfortunately, most do not know the difference.

    So, to answer potpourri's query, "how do we interpret" or "judge" the honorary degree. I'm not sure I can say it any clearer than Steve Foerster: No matter who it's from it's merely honorary, so I would entirely discount it for academic purposes. I would only add, that I would entirely discount an honorary degree for usage as a title in one's professional life. And it should never be listed on one's resume/cv under "education." It should be listed under "awards." IMHO, it is a matter of ethics.
  9. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, a blatant degree mill, or if DegreeInfo conferred it, it is an honorary degree.
  10. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    In 1996, Southampton College of Long Island University granted an honorary doctorate to Kermit the Frog.

    LIU is a perfectly respectable, regionally accredited US university.
    Kermit is a green frog puppet with many appearances in movies and television shows.

    In light of this example, how do we "interpret" or "judge" honorary degrees ?

    Well, obviously people are free to come to their own conclusions.
    But my answer would be: don't take them seriously.

    Although it must be acknowledged that Kermit's Commencement Address to the graduates is at least as good as any other Commencement Address that I've heard.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 28, 2014
  11. TEKMAN

    TEKMAN Semper Fi!

    I thought honorary degree has no value in academia. It is only for reputation only. Is my view wrong ?
  12. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Agreed. We should NEVER take such an award seriously, in an academic sense. Even so, if the award comes from a worthy institution, e.g. Southampton College, it usually has a significant meaning - that the recipient has done something of benefit to others and is being celebrated/honoured/rewarded. If it comes from an um... non-worthy source, it means the recipient likes to dress up in fancy robes and has paid for a self-aggrandizing ceremony and a meaningless piece of parchment.

    I'd say Kermit has brought more light, learning and enjoyment to the world than many humans I know - and I'm quite serious when I say he deserves the honorary doctorate from this fine school. It's good that Southampton College has recognized his contributions.

    "It's not easy, being green..." :smile:

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 28, 2014
  13. John Bear

    John Bear Senior Member

    Kermit's degree was a Doctor of Amphibious Letters. My favorite quote at the time was human graduate named Samantha Chie, who pointed out that she had done five years of hard work, and "now we have a sock talking at our commencement. It's kind of upsetting." Northwestern gave a Doctor of Innuendo to Charlie McCarthy. Newark University gave a heroic dog named Bonzo a Doctor of Canine Fidelity. And so it goes.

    I included a chapter on honorary doctorates in all editions of Bear's Guide, simply because there was a great deal of interest in them, and questions like potpourri's regularly arose. And it was such fun to make fun of them: Dr. Kermit, Dr. Captain Kangaroo, Dr. Mike Tyson, Dr. Michael Jackson, Dr. Soupy Sales, Dr. Dolly Parton, Dr. Mr. Rogers, and so on.

    I do find it troublesome when people with honoraries insist on being called "Doctor" -- which has been the case a great many times, from Dr. Edward Land (founder of Polaroid) to (newsworthy earlier this year) Dr. Don Meredith, a Canadian Senator.

    I've always liked Mark Twain's response when Oxford offered him an honorary doctorate: "I had...a convulsion of pleasure when Harvard made me a Doctor of Literature, because I was not competent to doctor anybody's literature but my own... And now at Oxford I am to be made a Doctor of Letters--all clear profit, because what I don't know about letters would make me a millionaire if I could turn it into cash." Twain would have liked George Bernard Shaw's response when Harvard offered him an honorary degree: "I cannot pretend it would be fair for me to accept university degrees when every public reference of mine to our educational system and especially to the influence of universities on it, is fiercely hostile. If Harvard would celebrate its 300th anniversary by burning itself to the ground and sowing its site with salt, the ceremony would give me the greatest satisfaction as an example to all the other famous old corrupters of youth, including Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, the Sorbonne, etc."
  14. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

    Actually, in the UK, the DD is an earned degree, a higher doctorate.
  15. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    Actually, Oxford issues both earned and honorary DD degrees. Earlier this year, for example, Oxford granted the "Degree of Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa" to the Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church.

    Turns out that the Bishop already has an earned doctorate: a PhD in oceanography from Oregon State.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 28, 2014
  16. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    The original post specified DD's in the United States. It is true that a small portion of non-US schools have DD programs, but the honorary DD is the topic of discussion in this thread. Not only the honorary DD, but other honorary degrees as well, e.g., D.Litt, etc.
  17. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    Anyone should find it troublesome, John, because it projects something that isn't true.

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