The Kansas Board of Regents plans to consider changes Wednesday in the honorary degree policy to allow more time for board staff to examine nominees and to prohibit universities from promising the award before securing approval by the board.
Honorary degrees have been conferred at the state’s public universities since 2012 to recognize people of notable service to humanity or with profound professional, scholarly, intellectual or creative accomplishments.
Disaster relief organization founder William McNulty and Columbia President Juan Manuel Santos and a dozen artists, humanitarians and scientists have been honored by the University of Kansas.
Kansas State University has paid tribute to photographer Jim Richardson, former U.S. Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker and a half-dozen other people.
Emporia State University honored civil rights activist Fred Gray, while Fort Hays State University presented an honorary diploma to former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole.
Proposed revisions include a softening of language regarding presentation of the degrees to individuals who engaged in philanthropic activity or service to a university or the state of Kansas. Existing policy says an honorary degree “shall not be awarded” in response to financial contributions or service to a university. The new policy would say the purpose of an honorary degree “is not sought” to recognize such activity.
In addition, the updated policy would clarify “no candidate for nomination shall be promised an honorary degree before the board has acted on the nomination.” The revisions mandate university officials submit nominations to the Board of Regents “at least four weeks” earlier than required under the existing policy to broaden the opportunity for board staff to vet the candidates.
The current policy requires a faculty member, administrator of other official associated with a university to have been separated from that university for more than five years before nominated to receive an honorary degree. The change would only block presentation of an honorary degree for five years.
The board’s policy would still apply a five-year waiting period to Kansas elected or appointed public officials.
University officials would continue to be prohibited from publicly disclosing nominees for honorary degrees before discussed in an open meeting of the Board of Regents.