Student protests force Gates snub

October 29, 1999

MONTREAL. A west-coast Canadian university showed that it would not be swayed by Bill Gates's recent gifts to the higher education sector when it refused him an honorary degree.

Student representatives at the University of Victoria applauded the 75-member university senate's decision not to grant an honorary doctorate to Mr Gates. The award is part of a millennial festival to honour people who made a large impact on the 20th century, and the students said it should not go to someone whose profits have rarely benefited students.

Supporters of the nomination are reported to have argued that Mr Gates deserved the degree for his contributions to information technology and philanthropy. The Microsoft chairman, whose company last month posted a first quarter net profit of US$2.19 billion, recently handed a US$25 million donation to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In September, he announced that his US$17 billion (Pounds 10 billion) philanthropic foundation would fund scholarships for disadvantaged students totalling US$1 billion over 20 years.

Kari Warton, director of academics for the university's student society, said arguments used by those opposed to Mr Gates's honorary doctorate centred around the way he amassed his wealth and the taint of his current anti-trust case with the US Department of Justice.

Another argument questioned the university's intentions for this award. With two-thirds having voted against the nomination, Victoria will never know whether the award would have earned a Microsoft thank-you gift.

The 13,000-student university made the news two years ago when it approved an honorary doctorate for Chinese president Jiang Zemin. Mr Jiang declined the offer after a wave of protests, which focused on his treatment of Tibetan sympathisers.

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