Today’s Canberra Times confirms that Lee Kuan Yew’s degree broke ANU rules on honorary degrees:

[ANU Chancellor] Dr Hawke conceded he was personally responsible for nominating Mr Lee for the honour, discussing it with his vice-chancellor Ian Chubb before taking the suggestion straight to council for approval. Under normal circumstances, the nomination would first have been considered by the Committee for Honorary Degrees, but Professor Chubb said yesterday that the fast scheduling of the diplomatic visit in December meant it went straight to council which, he noted, also contained six members of the Honorary Degrees Committee. “It was simply a timing thing and you can argue it is right or wrong, but you can’t put every decision out for public acclamation.”

I don’t think public acclamation is the issue. The issue is due process. The Honorary Degree Rules of 2006 [honorarydegsrules1.pdf] make it clear that proposals “must” be referred to the Honorary Degrees Committee. The quorum for the committee is eight and the proposal must be approved by at least 80 percent of those present. Importantly the Rules provide for academic staff and student representation on the Honorary Degrees Committee. While the rules emphasise the confidentiality of the process (not “public acclamation”) there is provision for consultation with appropriate persons.

Reading the Rules, I get the clear impression that they were specifically designed to avoid ill thought out proposals being rushed through.

All this make me wonder if the earlier proposal to award Korean industrialist Ku-Taek Lee with an honorary Doctor of Science also received Dr Hawke’s fast-track treatment:

The Chancellor, Dr Allan Hawke, would like to invite the academic staff of the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific to a special ceremony at which he will be conferring the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, on Mr Ku-Taek Lee, AC, Chair of POSCO, the Korean steel manufacturing company. The ceremony will take place at 11am on Thursday, 15 March, in the Great Hall of University House… The ceremony is a special occasion to honour Mr Lee’s achievements and further the University’s relationship with Korea. The Chancellor hopes you will join him for this event.

The ANU honorary degree “citations” for the two Lees are now available. Enjoy the reading.

leekuanyewcitation.pdf; leeku-taekcitation.pdf