THE award of honorary degrees by academic institutions is not to demonstrate their generosity or show of altruism. The awards are marketing tools to attract support.
The conferment of such degrees is not a recognition of academic prowess per se. It is aimed at eliciting material assistance from those who are honoured towards the cause of the growth of the institution.
Therefore, any debate on the appropriateness or otherwise of any recipient of an honorary degree is fruitless and very unrewarding. It is only the institution which determines the basis for such awards.
Once the power of an institution to confer such an award is not in dispute and it decides to confer a degree on any person, it does not owe the public any explanation or justification.
The situation is just like any individual giving a bona fide property as a gift to any person during his lifetime.
The donor does not need the approval of any other person. What is relevant is the freedom with which the gift is given out and whether he has the right to give such a gift.
Considerable time has been wasted on the discussions about the justness or otherwise of the decision of the University for Development Studies (UDS) to confer an honorary doctorate degree on former President Jerry John Rawlings.
There is no doubt that Flt Lt Rawlings played a leading role in the establishment of the UDS, the first of its kind to have a diffused presence across four regions.
Indeed, when Flt Lt Rawlings won the Hunger Award, he devoted part of his prize money towards the procurement of textbooks for the UDS.
Beyond that, Flt Lt Rawlings can help to mobilise resources towards the development of the UDS. Surely, the major task for those so awarded with honorary doctorate degrees is to help mobilise resources for the development of the institutions which honoured them.
There is the need to give credit where it is due. Those who study the history of the UDS will always give a pride of place to the role that Flt Lt Rawlings played in the birth of the UDS, the same way that the chiefs and people of the Upper West Region will forever be grateful to his government for creating that region.
It is, therefore, imperative that in discussing the decision of the UDS to award Flt Lt Rawlings with the honorary doctorate degree, we do away with partisan politics and look objectively at the role he played in the establishment or founding of the institution.
That way, we can look at the award as a complimentary recognition of his foresight in expanding the frontiers of university education with the establishment of the UDS.
We must give honour to those who deserve it.