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09th Dec 2022

Kanye West’s honorary degree from the Art Institute of Chicago has been revoked

Steve Hopkins

‘Regardless of his contributions prior to receipt of this award, it is harmful to allow Ye to use the school to help legitimise hatred’

Kanye West’s cultural significance continues to be dismantled, with his honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) being rescinded in what is a first for the school.

The school’s president, Elissa Tenny, has condemned the rapper’s recent antisemitic and racist statements. Just last week he said he “loves Hitler” on Alex Jones’ Infowars podcast and was kicked off Twitter – again – for sharing a picture of a swastika.

“Ye’s actions do not align with SAIC’s mission and values, and we’ve rescinded his honorary degree,” Tenny said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

Tenny described the recent comments from the rapper, who now goes just by Ye, as “anti-Black, antisemitic, racist, and dangerous, particularly those directed at Black and Jewish communities.”

The honorary degree was bestowed on the Donda rapper in 2015 in recognition of his artistic accomplishments, but Ye’s recent rants led to SAIC students starting an petition calling for Tenny to rescind his degree.

Buzzfeed noted the school had never rescinded an honorary degree since it was founded in 1866 as the Chicago Academy of Design.

The petition reached over 4,100 signatures and called out the role the honorary degree played in granting Ye legitimacy at a time when his comments were harming Jews and others.

“This award bestows the legitimacy and luster of the School on a figure who has in recent months has made repeated public statements expressing and justifying anti-semetism,” the petition reads.

“Regardless of his contributions prior to receipt of this award, it is harmful to allow Ye, as he is presently known, to continue to use the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to help legitimise hatred and violence.

“This harm impacts the artists, designers and scholars affiliated to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and their values of justice, compassion, and free expression without hatred.

“This harm impacts Jews, whose lives are put at direct risk by the mainstreaming of anti-semitic views. This harm impacts all oppressed peoples, who stand to suffer when intimidation and deadly violence against people on the basis of their identity are made justifiable.”

On Thursday, Tenny sent a letter to faculty announcing the news. The decision was celebrated by petition organisers, Buzzfeed noted.

“This is a direct result of your voices: we want to thank every member of the SAIC community who signed, shared, commented, and used your voices to reach out to the School directly,” they wrote.

“You did it!”

Ye’s antisemitic tweets led to his account being suspended multiple times, most recently when he shared a photo of a Jewish Star of David with a swastika in the middle to promote his presidential campaign. As Musk kicked Ye off the platform he posted a picture of the billionaire topless in an attempt to embarrass him.

The performer’s unravelling went up a gear in October 25, when Adidas cut ties with him in a deal that cost him billions. A month later, the sportswear company said it would investigate the allegations of workplace misconduct against him, which included him showing a pornographic video to executives in a meeting.

Rolling Stone last month reported that he also bullied employees and showed explicit material of Kim Kardashian in the workplace.

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