Responsibility: Office of the University Secretariat
Date Initially Approved: March 1, 2022
Board of Trustees – The governing body of the university with responsibility for overseeing financial matters of the institution, real estate and capital projects, internal and external audit activities, risk, and external relations and development, among others.
Honorary Degree – A degree awarded to an individual to recognize outstanding contribution to society on a national or international scale. The degree is not awarded for the completion of a Senate-approved academic program of study.
Senate – The governing body of the university with responsibility for determining all matters of an academic character affecting the university as a whole.
Purpose/Reason for Policy
The purpose of the policy is to provide for the revocation or issuance of a special statement concerning an Honorary Degree awarded to an individual whose past or current conduct, or statements, bring disrepute to the University, or call the decision to confer such an honour on the individual into question.
Scope of this Policy
The Policy is applicable to all Honorary Degrees awarded by the university from the time of their first presentation in 1858 to the present day.
Queen’s University awards Honorary Degrees to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of their discipline or field of work, to their community, to society, or to the University, on a national or international scale. While the utmost diligence has been, and will continue to be, exercised by the university when awarding an Honorary Degree, there may be rare occurrences when a recipient’s past and/or current conduct, or statements, bring disrepute to the University and/or call the decision to confer such an honour on the individual into question.
In such instances, this policy provides for the issuance of a special statement or, in rare instances, the revocation of the honour. The issuance of a special statement serves to both acknowledge Queen’s place in the history of the nation, and create the opportunity for critical reflections on Queen’s past celebration of persons in the history of Canada, and the world, whose words or deeds no longer accord with the contemporary views of Canadian society or the current values of the University.
A special statement acts as a recognition that the University cannot undo, nor simply forget, actions in its history. It requires that the University work to reconcile its actions, beliefs, and values of the past with its current place in the fabric of Canadian society, and to acknowledge the role that Queen’s has played over time in shaping that fabric. It reminds us of the importance of the decisions that we make and the impacts these decisions can have on people now living, and in the future – impacts which often are not undone easily.
Special statements, when issued on a majority vote of the Senate, will offer a contextual view of an Honorary Degree recipient’s contributions, both from a perspective that is contemporary with the time of the award, and through the lens of the modern world. The full impact of achievements, actions, and attitudes of recipients will be thoroughly explored and examined. Finally, steps that should be taken or explored to overcome harm that may have been caused by the fact of the award should be articulated, and recommendations for how the University can meaningfully acknowledge these harms and reconcile its past actions with its current values should be made.
Honorary Degree Revocation
Revocation of an Honorary Degree will not be considered in the case of deceased individuals. The revoking of an Honorary Degree from a deceased individual is largely a futile and self-serving measure and avoids an honest reconciliation of the University’s past actions and values with our current expectations and standards. Revocation will only be available for Honorary Degrees awarded to individuals still living and only where a motion to do so is supported by two-thirds of the senators who cast a vote on such a motion. Such circumstances would normally be tied to the bona fides of the case for support of the original award and could include considerations involving fraud, fabrication, or the discovery of new facts or information. Conduct occurring following the award that is inconsistent with the case for support or the values of the university may also merit revocation of the honour.
The issuance of a special statement, or a motion to revoke an Honorary Degree from a living person shall be considered by Senate on the recommendation of the Senate Honorary Degrees Committee.
University Secretary – Receive requests for the revocation or issuance of a special statement, verify that such requests meet the requirements outlined in the Procedure for the Issuance of a Special Statement Concerning an Honorary Degree, and provide verified requests to the Senate Honorary Degrees Committee for review.
Senate Honorary Degrees Committee – Review verified requests in accordance with the principles laid out in this policy and provide a recommendation regarding a final decision to the Senate.
Senate – Consider the recommendation received from Senate Honorary Degrees Committee and make a final decision.
|Contact Officer||University Secretary|
|Date for Next Review||March 2027|
|Related Policies, Procedures and Guidelines|
|Policies Superseded by This Policy||N/A|