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Following false claims about Apple supply chain conditions, Mike Daisey loses honorary degree, withdraws from college commencement speech

Image of Daisey via BusinessWeek

According to an email sent to students of Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Mike Daisey was scheduled to deliver a commencement speech at the college’s graduation this year and receive an honorary degree. Following his false claims about Apple supply chain worker conditions, the school and Daisy have agreed to revoke his speech honor and honorary degree.  Here’s the letter:

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

Many of you shared our excitement when we announced that Mike Daisey would be one of the 2012 recipients of an honorary degree and would speak at Commencement. Since then, Mr. Daisey has acknowledged that he personally did not witness all the events that he said he did, and he exaggerated the level of his own experiences to journalists.

Since its founding by Nellie Cornish in 1914, Cornish College of the Arts has educated and prepared students to contribute to society as artists, citizens, and innovators.  One essential principle of that education is the importance of professional integrity.  Because of that foundational value, Cornish will not award an honorary degree to Mr. Daisey.  Cornish and Mr. Daisey have mutually agreed he will withdraw from commencement. Commencement is the day when we honor our students for their achievements; the focus of this day is properly on the students and their families.

A public announcement will be made very soon and we wanted to make sure that our community receives the information first. We appreciate the many thoughtful comments that you have shared with the President of the College and the Board of Trustees. We welcome any other thoughts you wish to share.We are very pleased to announce that the 2012 commencement address will be delivered by artist, designer, and technologist Chris Csikszentmihályi. He is one of three honorary degree recipients, including distinguished pianist Christopher O’Riley and renowned artist Betye Saar. The degrees will be presented by President Nancy J. Uscher at the Cornish Commencement Ceremony on May 13, 2012 at 1 pm at Benaroya Hall. We hope we will see you there.

Following the sending of this email to students of the college, Daisey posted a response on his own blog. Daisey says that his removal from the ceremonies and loss of the honorary degree were mutually reached decisions. Daisy does seem upset, though, at the nature of the announcement:

I have been asking Cornish often when they were going to make their statement. They’ve been uncommunicative and cagey—Nancy dodged my emails, and delayed until their statement was out this morning. When I called Karen Bystrom, the communications director, she passed the buck back up to Nancy, the same person who had been calling with supportive calls until her board told her not to, and who then drafted a statement condemning me after seeking my honorable withdrawal, which I gave her willingly.  I’ve apologized for what I’ve done wrong. Cornish’s choice to grandstand on my back, when they had a very open statement from me withdrawing almost two weeks ago, is their choice. I applaud their embrace of “professional integrity”—it’s unfortunate that they didn’t exercise that integrity in this case.  But I certainly forgive them—I know what it’s like to be caught between different sets of obligations, and how the pressure of public scrutiny can help us make unfortunate choices.

The above email to Cornish students is not the college’s official and public announcement, but one delivered only to students for the time being.

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