Fordham Faculty Against Torture (FFAT) — a group of seven professors fighting to revoke the honorary degree awarded to CIA Director John Brennan — doesn’t mind that USG opposes their effort.
“We are not discouraged, nor are we surprised,” David Myers, a member of FFAT and a history professor, told Fordham Daily. “USG was never a focus of our efforts, and we understand the many politics involved.”
Brennan, FCRH ’77, was awarded the honorary degree in 2012 when he was at Rose Hill to deliver that year’s commencement address. FFAT believes the honor should be rescinded in light of Brennan’s connection to the controversial torture tactics outlined in December’s Senate Intelligence Committee report.
Student government at Rose Hill voted against supporting the effort just before leaving for spring break earlier this month.
“Certain [USG] members felt that the revocation of John Brennan’s honorary degree would set a murky precedent,” President Nevin Kulangara told The Fordham Ram.
“Some raised the concern that revoking a degree from one individual would require the university to apply the same level of scrutiny to other recipients of an honorary doctorate.”
Still, FFAT has collected hundreds of signatures of support among students, faculty and alumni. Myers believes that number could be higher, but some on campus are hesitant to publicly go against the position of top administrators.
“Even among the full time faculty, of whom more than 20 percent have signed, we have individuals telling us that because of their position, they cannot sign, despite their sympathies,” Myers said.
The group plans to submit the petition to Fordham President Fr. Joseph McShane, S.J., and the Board of Trustees, but a specific timeline has not yet been established.
McShane had quietly offered to bring Brennan to campus to meet with FFAT if they delayed the release of their petition, but the group declined. “We concluded that the kind of dialog we seek would not be enhanced by Mr. Brennan’s presence,” the group said in an open letter to McShane.
McShane was in Washington, DC in September to present the Brien McMahon Award for Distinguished Public Service to Brennan. The two are said to be personal friends.
FFAT planned to host “A Teach-in on Torture, Human Rights, and Restorative Justice” on Tuesday at Rose Hill. An advertisement reads: “Join our efforts to promote reflection and dialogue on Fordham’s mission.”
Along with revoking Brennan’s honorary degree, the faculty group hopes to spark a discussion on campus about torture — and how it intersects with Fordham’s values.