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College President Defends Honorary Doctorate for Kanye West


Def Jam RecordsThe School of the Art Institute of Chicago was criticized for choosing Kanye West to receive an honorary doctorate at their 2015 commencement, but the president of the school is standing by his decision.

President Walter E. Massey told The Fader that West is admired by the professors. “He is both inside of and critical of systems; he is enthusiastically engaged in creating while also critiquing,” Massey says. “We have faculty members who use him as the subject of their teaching, so this is perfect… Us giving Kanye this honorary degree shows a lot of complexity in his music and his creative persona that they didn’t see before.”

Dean of Faculty Lisa Wainwright adds, “We got word from Twitter that he said something about his wishing he got his degree from the Art Institute.  We thought, ‘Wow, this is wonderful that he’s mentioning us, that he’s mentioning art school again.’ We reached out to him.” 

There was a student petition opposing honoring West, and Massey says he welcomed the protest. “One of the things I said here that I’m liking more and more about this taking place is providing an opportunity to talk about those kinds of issues.“ He responded to the criticism with the questions, “Why do you think that? What’s behind your immediate surface reaction? I think it probably wouldn’t have been as good to me if there were no opposition. It would’ve been too bland.”

West will receive his honorary Ph.D. at the school’s commencement on May 11.

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