Gore may get doctorate

The U is in the confidential stages of considering an honorary degree for Al Gore.

by Elena Rozwadowski

Former Vice President Al Gore could pay a visit to the University in the near future to receive an honorary degree for his work in climatology.

University President Bob Bruininks spilled the beans at the February Board of Regents meeting, saying that “two of our colleges are working with Vice President Gore to provide, we hope, an honorary doctorate.”

Gore has been in the news lately for his 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” about global warming. University spokesperson Daniel Wolter said since Gore is an expert in the subject, several colleges at the University have expressed interest in inviting Gore to speak on campus.

“He’s in the news and is a legitimate expert on a pressing issue of global concern, climate change, so this level of interest is understandable,” Wolter said. “However, no plans have been set and it’s unlikely that would occur this spring.”

Gore spokesperson Kalee Kreider said she did not believe Gore has received information about an honorary doctorate from the University and wouldn’t comment further.

Wolter said the University is still interested in hosting Gore and will “continue to look into the matter.”

One way to lure him to campus would be with an honorary doctorate, which he would likely receive in person.

The University gives out several honorary degrees each year in three categories: humane letters, laws and sciences. Candidates cannot be University employees and must be nominated by a current faculty or staff member or a University alumnus or alumna.

University Senate Administrator Vicky Courtney said the honorary degree process is supposed to be totally confidential. In fact, the announcement of an honorary doctorate is not usually made until after the candidate accepts, she said.

“If somebody turns us down, it’s an embarrassment to the University,” Courtney said.

Courtney, who is in charge of coordinating honorary degrees, would not comment on the possibility of the Gore doctorate, but did say the “process is in the most absolute confidential stages.”

Media relations employees at the College of Biological Sciences, the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs said they were unaware of the honorary doctorate, although Wolter said faculty at the Humphrey Institute might be involved.

Some students at the University are in support of the doctorate for Gore, including University DFL President Shannon Mitchell.

The bipartisan work he did after he ran for office, she said, including his documentary, is deserving of the award.

“He’s a leader in an area we all need to be very concerned with,” she said.

Ingrid Scantlebury, a first-year political science student, agrees with Gore’s work but doesn’t feel the University should award him a degree for it.

“It’s mainly a publicity thing,” she said.

Scantlebury said if anyone else had made the same documentary, the University probably wouldn’t recognize him or her.

“People will pay more attention because of who he is.”

The University has given 223 honorary degrees to date. Past recipients include Yanni, Charles Schultz, Sandra Day O’Connor and Hillary Clinton.