URI Flips on Flynn’s Honorary Degree, Questions Raised About Jackson and Sexual Harassment Charges

Tuesday, December 05, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (RET) and Jesse Jackson
On Friday, a University of Rhode Island spokesperson told GoLocal that she expected URI to review retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s honorary degree, following Flynn's FBI charge -- and guilty plea. 

On Monday, however, the University changed their position.

In a statement to GoLocal, URI said, “The University is not currently considering rescinding the honorary degree for  Lt. Gen. Flynn.” When asked about charges against another URI honorary degree recipient -- Jesse Jackson -- URI told GoLocal, “The University is not currently considering rescinding the honorary degree for Rev. Jackson."

Over the past three years, an estimated 25 colleges and universities have rescinded their honorary degrees bestowed to comedian and actor Bill Cosby. He has not been convicted of any crimes.

Allegations Against Jackson

A leading African-American journalist, Danielle Young claims that Jackson sexually harassed her.

She wrote in an essay in The Root,

“I walked toward Jackson, smiling, and he smiled back at me. His eyes scanned my entire body. All of a sudden, I felt naked in my sweater and jeans. As I walked within arm’s reach of him, Jackson reached out a hand and grabbed my thigh, saying, “I like all of that right there!” and gave my thigh a tight squeeze.

I was shocked, to say the least. Even though Jackson had had his hand reached out, I had no idea that he would touch me in a sexual way.

I did what most women in an uncomfortable position do: I giggled. And I continued to giggle as he pulled me in closer, stared down at my body, smiled and told me he was only kidding. The entire time, my co-worker snapped photos.

Flynn Will Be a Convicted Felon Upon Sentencing

According to URI, “Flynn pleading guilty is disappointing to the University community.  His actions in this matter do not reflect the values of the University nor do they meet our expectations of people in public service.”

The University went on to outline its process on Monday -- changing course from its previous position. 

There is no specific action that the University is taking nor is there any timetable for addressing the matter.  The Honorary Degree Committee is the body that would review the possibility of rescinding an honorary degree and, if it voted to do so, its action would be in the form of a recommendation to the President. At this time, the committee does not have any meetings scheduled.

Honorary Degree recipients are those who have distinguished themselves through important contributions to the University, to the State of Rhode Island, or to the nation — individuals who deserve to be honored by the University and who will bring honor to the University by accepting a URI degree. It is the highest honor bestowed to an individual by the University.

Honorary degrees are conferred at a particular time in the life of the individual, and evaluated based on the information available. Rescinding an honorary degree is a significant step, and would need to be thoroughly evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Historically, the University of Rhode Island has not rescinded any honorary degrees.

The University will continue to monitor the developments regarding retired Lt. Gen. Flynn.

As a follow-up to your question regarding Rev. Jesse Jackson, The University is not currently considering rescinding the honorary degree for Rev. Jackson.

Eligibility for Honorary Degree

·      Persons to be recognized will have attained outstanding academic, professional, and/or civic stature through their accomplishments and contributions.

·      Persons to be recognized for their outstanding accomplishments should have a demonstrated connection to the mission and values of The University of Rhode Island and/or have made important contributions to the State of Rhode Island.

·      Persons receiving an Honorary Degree from URI must appear in person at the Main Commencement Ceremony (Note – in rare situations the University may award an Honorary Degree posthumously).

·      Nominees for a URI Honorary Degree must not be a current employee of the University or actively holding political office in or representing Rhode Island.

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    Sample: N=403

    Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

    Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

    Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

    Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

     
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    Democrat: 32%

    Republican: 15%

    Moderate: .4%

     
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    Probably be voting: 13%

    50-50: 9%

     
  • In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

    Right track: 39%

    Wrong track: 45%

    Mixed: 10%

    Don't know/Refused: .6%

     
  • What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

    Jobs and economy:  21%

    Education: 12%

    Taxes: 12%

    Roads: 12%

    State budget: 9%

    Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

    Healthcare: 3%

    Governor: 3%

    Homelessness: 2%

    Immigration: 2%

    Other: 7%

    Don’t know: .9%

     
  • Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

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    Not changed at all: 43%

    Don't know/Refused: 5%

     
  • Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

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    Changed for the worse: 19%

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  • The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

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    $150,000 or more: 13%

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  • Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

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  • Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

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    Good: 30%
    Fair: 20%
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    Never heard of: 13%
    Cannot rate: 11%

     
  • Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

    Excellent: 6%
    Good: 28%
    Fair: 30%
    Poor: 31%
    Never heard of: 1%
    Cannot rate: 3%

     
  • Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?


    Excellent: 3%
    Good: 16%
    Fair: 21%
    Poor: 8%
    Never heard of: 26%
    Cannot rate: 25%

     
  • Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?


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    Good: 20%
    Fair: 28%
    Poor: 17%
    Never heard of: 13%
    Cannot rate: 19%

     
  • Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

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    Poor: 13%
    Never heard of: 21%
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  • Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

    Excellent: 5%
    Good: 21%
    Fair: 21%
    Poor: 10%
    Never heard of: 20%
    Cannot rate: 23%

     

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