In Protest Against Conferring Honorary Professor

J. Soedradjad Djiwandono
J. Soedradjad Djiwandono, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Faculty of Economics and Business, Universitas Indonesia, and Adjunct Professor of International Economics, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.

Jakarta, IO – A few days ago, there was a report in CNN Indonesia, revealing that a total of 353 lecturers of Gajah Mada University, Yogyakarta, representing 14 Faculties, have signed a letter of protest to its President, objecting to the proposed conferring of an “Honorary Professor” to someone lacking a university degree. 

The letter claimed that this would disgrace the academic profession and would become a bad precedent for the University, if they were to confer an honorary professorship to a non-academic degree holder. 

Conferring an honorary degree signifies someone an academic degree without their having to fulfil all requirements. At issue here is the reward of a donor, as an appreciation to her or his contribution to the University, whether for having built a lecture hall or auditorium, or making a cash donation. Should such a donor be conferred an honorary professorship? 

This seems to have become some kind of tradition in university lives globally. But, in my observation, the more common practice is to confer an honorary doctoral degree, with the title of “Doctor Honorius Causa”. I do not recall any university conferring a “Professor Honoris Causa” position. Frankly, this has been my understanding on this issue. I am thus in support of the protest by the lecturers of Gajah Mada University. This is my Alma Mater, and I take pride of being an alumnus, despite my being an Emeritus Professor of the University of Indonesia, Jakarta, and an Adjunct Professor of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. For those unfamiliar with the term, Adjunct is to mean that the person is a professor and teaching at the University, but not in residence, in other word, a Visiting Professor. I was in residence with S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), one of the Graduate Schools offering Master and Doctorate Degrees Programs at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, for 19 years but returned to Jakarta since the Covid-19 pandemic was declared three years ago. And since I am currently in my advanced years, my school let me continue my teaching on line (from my study room), instead of in person. The other thing in common for university to give recognition of someone’s contribution to the university’s advancement is to affix the name of the contributor to the thing contributed, as naming a building or auditorium as “Name here” Building or Auditorium.