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May 09, 1986 - Image 3

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1986-05-09

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The Michigan Daily --Friday, May 9, 1986 - Page 3
Mandela honored in special ceremony

The University's commen-
cement ceremony ended last
week and Nelson Mandela did not
receive an official honorary
degree, but supporters of the
jailed South African activist
vowed to continue the battle in
the fall.
Preceding the commencement
ceremony last Saturday, they
gave Mandela an honorary
degree of their own in a
ceremony on the Diag.
UNIVERSITY administrators,
who along with the Board of
Regents, refused to give Mandela
the honor, praised the ceremony.
They continued, however, to
defend their handling of the con-
troversy. Mandela was not
honored by the University
because of a regent's by-law
prohibiting the giving of
honorary degrees to those who
cannot accept them in person.
The special ceremony, which
was organized by the Free South
Africa Coordinating Committee
(FSACC), began on the Diag at 10
a.m., three hours before the
University's commencement
exercises at Michigan Stadium.
Congressman George Crockett
(D-Detroit), a vehement op-
featured speaker. was the
Mandela, a British-trained
lawyer, led the South African
revolutionary group, the African
National Congress, before his
1962 arrest under anti-com-
munism laws. He was sentenced
to life rimprisonment. Activists
on his behalf say he symbolizes
the struggle against apartheid, is
a leader of black South Africans,
and is representative of political
prisoners worldwide.
FSACC MEMBERS assert that
Mandela has continued to work
against apartheid. They say he
has repeatedly been offered his
release if he renounces the use of
violence to overthrow apartheid,
but has pledged to accept oniy an
.unconditional release. His
determination and devotion to the
cause have inspired others in the
anti-apartheid movement, sup-
porters say.
According to Barbara Ran-
shy, leader of FSACC, the
ceremony was held to give
students and faculty members an
opportunity to honor Mandela
and his achievements. In absen-
tia, Mandela was awarded an
honorary "Doctor of Humane
Letters" by University sociology
Sprof Aldon Morris.
The doctorate, which is given to
actual honorary degree recipien-
ts, was accepted in the form of a
plaque by Thabi Nyide of the
African National Congress. She
expressed gratitude for this
recognition of Mandela's cause.
RANSBY SAID the ceremony
also protested the University
administration's treatment of
Mandela supporters.
She said the administration
showed poor faith by not telling
FSACC members until April that
a regents by-law requires

Citizens of all ages honor jailed South African activist Nelson Man-
dela at a special commencement last Saturday. The decision to hold

honorary degree recipients to ac-
cept the degrees in person. The
regents by-laws govern the
"We feel the University acted
in fundamentally bad faith. We
are angry, frustrated and disap-
pointed with the administration,"
Ransby said.
Harold Shapiro has said the ad-
ministration thought supporters
of Mandela were aware of the by-
One of the administration's
representatives on the Univer-
sity's Honorary Degree Commit-
tee, Vice President for Gover-
nment Relations Richard Ken-
nedy, continued to defend the
University's decision to review
the by-law instead of granting
Mandela a degree.
"In retrospect, should we
have handled it differently?" he
mused. "I don't think we should
have.". Kennedy said that while
the regents had the power to
bypass the by-law requiring Man-
dela's attendance, such excep-
tions are rare.
HE ADDED that much of the
criticism the University has
received "ignored the history of
the University's public stance
against apartheid." He recalled
that the University was one of the
first to adopt the Sullivan prin-
ciples for dealing with businesses
that do business in South Africa.
Nonetheless, Kennedy praised
FSACC for organizing last Satur-
day's ceremony. He called it "an
expression by a group of serious,
dedicated individuals."
"I really don't think it em-
barassed the University," he
said they have not yet deter-,
mined a format for a committee

to review the honorary degree
policy. The review wasordered
by the regents at their April
meeting after students protested
the current policy by occupying
the regents room for the night.
The regents' resolution said the
review process "should include
representatives from the Univer-
sity administration, the faculty
and the student body."
The resolution of the issue,
however, failed to please
Congressman Crockett and other
speakers at the ceremony.
Michigan cannot afford to hide
behind outdated rules and
regulations when issues of such
importance are pressing,"
Crockett said.
He said it was shameful that
Mandela's "unconscionable im-
prisonment was seized on as a
justification for a refusal to honor
After the ceremony, Crockett
called the by-law "a cop-out" and
asserted that "racism entered in-
to the matter" of not granting a
degree to Mandela. He declined
to elaborate.
Crockett has been active in the
movement to draw attention to
Mandela's situation. He authored
a House resolution calling for
Mandela's release.
AFTER HER speech, Nyide,
of the African National Congress
said a University degree would
have represented a statement of
world opinion and would have
had a positive effect because "the
South African government can-
not stand in isolation."
Ratisby said she "hopes at least
the University feels embarassed
and perhaps moved to reflect on
the way they handled the mat-

the ceremony was made after the Board of Regents refused to award
Mandela an honorary degree at the regular commencement.
Delgado pledged that the heralded as an "alternative
organization will continue the commencement", but Delgado
effort for recognition of Mandela, said that out of respect for paren-
saying, "in September, we'll pick ts of graduating students, FSACC
up where we left off." decided not to compete with the
The event had originally been regular commencement.
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