June 23, 2021
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Honorary Degrees And Celebrity Endorsements

Honorary Degrees And Celebrity Endorsements

No fancy op-eds, no lobbying, all it took was a short Facebook status update from Maheshwer Peri, former Outlook publisher:

A few months back, on NDTV Suhel Seth suggested that formal degrees have no meaning. His ignorance of the real world for most career and job aspirants was appalling. By accepting a doctorate from a university that is most likely to abuse it to reach out to ignorant students, he has again shown his ignorance as also his lure for citations and recognitions. How i wish our celebrities acted a bit responsibly and did their homework.

In the comments section, Mr Peri also pointed to some of the complaints against Rai Foundation in the public domain.

Soon thereafter, Suhel Seth responded:

I had no clue…will return this immediately.”

In a way, just the status message and the comments illustrate what it took:

Seth later confirmed that he had indeed returned the degree.

The business of conferring doctorates on celebrities is not as innocent as it looks. An obscure university, no matter how dubious its antecedents, can always hope to allure some unsuspecting students by using the publicity garnered as a result of awarding a degree to a celebrity and then using photographs and the associated news coverage with the celebrities as conveying the impression that the celebrities endorse the university under question.

On November 20th, Rai University had conferred honorary doctorate degrees to "Suhel Seth, a marketing wizard; Kiran Bedi, a social activist and the first woman to join Indian Police Service; Priti Paul, director of Apeejay Surrendra Group; and Ritu Beri, International fashion designer; for outstanding contributions in their chosen fields."

While Seth has returned his degree and said —"now going to work on getting a real doctorate"—it is not known whether or not the others who were bestowed with these degrees also plan to take any such action.

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