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President Wilson to recommend rescinding Robert Mugabe degree

BOSTON -- President Jack M. Wilson today announced that he will recommend that the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees rescind an honorary degree granted to Robert Mugabe in 1986.

 "In the two decades that have passed since the honorary degree was awarded, Robert Mugabe has pursued policies and taken actions that are antithetical to the values and beliefs of the University of Massachusetts," President Wilson said. "I must recommend that we sever the connection that was formed when Robert Mugabe appeared to be a force for positive change in Africa. Today, that promise no longer exists."

Last June, the UMass Board of Trustees voted to rebuke Mugabe for policies and practices that have "brought worldwide scorn" on him. At that time, University leaders agreed to look at further action.

President Wilson said he has been reviewing the Mugabe issue since then, adding: "I now recommend that we take the next step and rescind the degree given in good faith and sullied by two decades of bad practice."

Robert J. Manning, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees, said: "As a result of President Wilson's recommendation, the Board of Trustees will revisit this issue and will do what is appropriate and right."

Mugabe was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree during a convocation held at UMass Amherst in 1986. At the time, Mugabe, who came to power in 1980, was seen as a force for democracy and reform. He had played a central role in the struggle to end white-minority rule in the former Rhodesia. In the intervening years, Mugabe has been linked to human rights abuses and has been accused of stifling political opposition. Mugabe and his government have been sanctioned by the U.S. government and the European Union, with the U.S. sanctions targeting "policies that have undermined Zimbabwe's democratic institutions."

The 22-member University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees meets on June 12 at UMass Lowell. To date, the University of Massachusetts has never rescinded an honorary degree.

Contact: Robert P. Connolly, 617-287-7073


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