Colleges and universities often give honorary degrees to key politicians, authors and public leaders, as a way of both honoring their achievements and drawing prestige to the school itself. That St. Andrews University in Scotland bestowed their own honorary degree on Hillary Clinton, a former United States Secretary of State, senator and First Lady — not to mention potential presidential candidate — shouldn’t be seen as surprising. What is surprising is the outrage coming from those who oppose abortion.
St. Andrews is the oldest college in Scotland and is celebrating its 600th birthday this week. As part of the celebration, the school invited Clinton to speak and receive an honorary degree, and abortion opponents were incensed. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), a London anti-choice action group, led a charge to force the university to rescind their offer, relying on the powers of the internet to display their wrath. According to The Courier UK, SPUC drafted an email campaign asking followers to contact St. Andrews University and demand that she not be honored by the school because she “promotes abortion” and thus cannot be considered a human rights supporter. Thousands rose to the challenge, outdoing each other in their extremist rhetoric attacking the former Secretary of State.
“When history is written you will see that giving a degree to Mrs Clinton will be like honouring Adolf Hitler for ridding Germany of Jews and Mao Tse Tung for turning China’s fields into factories and killing millions,” one emailer wrote.
The administration was unmoved by the mailers. “As a university, we stand for freedom of thought, freedom of expression and a willingness to listen to and learn from the views of all. It’s in our DNA,” responded Principal Dr. Louise Richardson. “By the same measure, we are intrinsically immune to intimidation and intolerance.”
Protesting colleges who invite political figures simply because the protesters don’t like their positions on abortion is by no means exclusive to the U.K. In 2009 Pro-Life Action League arranged a massive protest at Notre Dame after the University invited President Barack Obama to give the commencement address, and that protest resulted in over 80 arrests. Protesters also bought billboards near the college on which they placed the message “Notre Dame: Obama is pro abortion choice. How dare you honor him,” according to the Washington Post.
Despite the anger of those who oppose abortion, Clinton received her award — doctor of laws degree — in a ceremony devoid of any discernible protest. At the ceremony, she acknowledged the St. Andrew’s role as the first Scottish university to be led by a woman and praised “Scottish enlightenment” as leading to societal progress, according to the BBC.
“It is important that as we chart our way forward in this new century we bring with it the enlightened view that every individual around the world, regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity or orientation should be able to contribute to their society and have the chance to live up to his or her god-given potential,” said Clinton in her remarks.
The SPUC remains undaunted by their failure to have any affect on the University’s final decision to honor Clinton, simply posting one final blog post declaring: ”Hillary Clinton supports the killing of unborn children in the developing world. She should not have been awarded a doctorate by the University of St. Andrews.