Bishop Trustees of Sewanee weigh in on Charlie Rose’s honorary degree

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Following in the footsteps of Sewanee students and faculty, the Bishop Trustees of the University have written an open letter to the Regents concerning an honorary degree awarded to journalist Charlie Rose in 2016.

The letter, signed by 24 bishops and dated March 6, is published in The Sewanee Purple, and copied below in full. The bishops note that Rose was dismissed by his employer, and other educational institutions promptly rescinded their honorary degrees. Citing its Anglican Christian tradition, the bishops argue that rescinding Rose’s award would not be a “departure from the Christian practice of forgiveness. Instead, it is a refusal to live in denial.”

The full text follows:

To our sisters and brothers at the University of the South. From the Bishop Trustees of the University. Grace and peace to you in Christ Jesus.

In the opening days of this academic term the Regents discussed a response to a deeply disturbing revelation. Charlie Rose, a 2016 recipient of an honorary degree, sexually harassed his female colleagues over a period of two decades.

Mr. Rose’s employer dismissed him. Other institutions of higher learning rescinded the honorary degrees that they had conferred upon him. When the Regents met earlier this year, two female Student Trustees presented a cogent argument for removing the degree from Mr. Rose.

We, the undersigned Trustee Bishops, urge the Regents of the University to rescind Mr. Rose’s honorary degree.

Since its inception Sewanee has been an institution dedicated to the nurture of the soul as well as the mind. We are a Christian institution in the Anglican tradition, encouraging and celebrating a life of virtue. While career success is praiseworthy, we value such achievements as but one dimension of a life devoted to pursuing the common good.

Mr. Rose steadily ascended the career ladder. However, in his climb to the top of his profession he repeatedly failed to respect the dignity of his female colleagues. By rescinding the degree, Sewanee acknowledges a reality to which we had previously been blind. This would not represent a departure from the Christian practice of forgiveness. Instead, it is a refusal to live in denial.

What our Regents decide in the case of Mr. Rose will have ramifications beyond the boundaries of the Domain. Our nation is newly awakened to the pervasiveness of the harassment of and the violence toward women in the workplace, on campuses, on our streets, and in our homes. By failing  to act in this case, the University remains silent in the face of a broader injustice. And to paraphrase Eli Wiesel, silence always benefits the oppressor.

In Christ’s peace,

The Rt. Rev. Gladstone B. Adams III
Bishop, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina

The Rt. Rev. Larry R. Benfield
Bishop, The Diocese of Arkansas

The Rt. Rev. Scott Anson Benhase
Bishop, The Diocese of Georgia

The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson
Bishop Suffragan, The Diocese of West Texas

The Rt. Rev. Brian L. Cole
Bishop, The Diocese of East Tennessee

The Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple
Bishop Suffragan, The Diocese of North Carolina

The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle
Bishop, The Diocese of Texas

The Rt. Rev. Peter Eaton
Bishop, The Diocese of Southeast Florida

The Rt. Rev. Jeff W. Fisher
Bishop Suffragan, The Diocese of Texas

The Rt. Rev. Dena A. Harrison
Bishop Suffragan, The Diocese of Texas

The Rt. Rev. Don E. Johnson
Bishop, The Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee

The Rt. Rev. J. Russell Kendrick
Bishop, The Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast

The Rt. Rev. Jose A. McLoughlin
Bishop, The Diocese of Western North Carolina

The Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer
Bishop, The Diocese of Northwest Texas
Bishop Provisional, The Diocese of Fort Worth

The Rt. Rev. Hector Monterroso
Bishop Assistant, The Diocese of Texas

The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby
Bishop, The Diocese of Western Louisiana

The Rt. Rev. Samuel S. Rodman
Bishop, The Diocese of North Carolina

The Rt. Rev. Brian R. Seage
Bishop, The Diocese of Mississippi

The Rt. Rev. John McKee Sloan
Bishop, The Diocese of Alabama

The Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith
Bishop, The Diocese of Missouri

The Rt. Rev. George R. Sumner
Bishop, The Diocese of Dallas

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Waldo
Bishop, The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina

The Rt. Rev. Terry A. White
Bishop, The Diocese of Kentucky

The Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright
Bishop, The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

 

Featured image via Sewanee on Facebook

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