THE BLOG

POLL: 79% Of ASU Faculty Say Obama Should Receive Honorary Degree

05/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

TEMPE, ARIZONA - This week, two Arizona State University physics professors, Mike Thorpe and Jose Menendez, polled ASU faculty on whether President Barack Obama should receive an honorary degree when he delivers the commencement speech next month.

When news broke last week that ASU may not confer the customary honorary degree on Obama, it ignited a public backlash and a media firestorm. This week, Thorpe and Menendez, who felt faculty had no voice in the process, sent a poll to all ASU faculty via email asking each faculty member to reply with "yes" or "no" in the subject line.

The polling email:

Tuesday April 14, 2009

To ASU faculty:

In discussions on this issue, the ASU faculty has yet to be heard from. Express your opinion via this informal poll by voting on the following:

"President Obama should receive an honorary degree when he visits ASU as the commencement speaker on May 13"

To vote, hit "*reply*" and put either "*yes*" or "*no*" somewhere in the subject line. Votes received by midnight Thursday will be automatically tabulated (no replies will be read so don't waste time with comments etc.) and you will receive an email Friday with the result. All names and email addresses will be kept confidential. This email is being sent to all faculty on all ASU campuses.

Mike Thorpe, Professor of Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Jose Menendez, Professor of Physics

Approximately 4 out of 5 faculty members (79.5 percent) who voted said they are in favor of giving an honorary degree to Obama. Only about 1 in 5 faculty members (20.5 percent) voted against giving Obama an honorary degree.

The results email:

Friday April 17, 2009

To ASU faculty:

The result of the ASU faculty vote was 579 "yes" votes and 149 "no" votes - which is 79.5% "yes" and 20.5% "no".

We stress this is a very informal survey and agree with any and all criticism that it is non-scientific. The numbers should therefore only be taken as a very rough indicator of faculty sentiment. This information has been transmitted to the chairs of the relevant university committees and to President Crow.

The total number of emails received was 955, after subtracting "out of office', undeliverables etc. and 3 duplicate votes (nice try!). Only those emails with "yes" or "no" in the subject line were counted (case insensitive), so that for example "no later" was counted as "no" and "yes maybe" as "yes". We eliminated 227 emails for not voting in the subject line. No spam or irregularities were detected. The vote count was verified by us both independently.

Mike Thorpe, Professor of Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Jose Menendez, Professor of Physics

Earlier this week, an ASU spokesperson now confesses, "we blew it," and concedes that the university likely would have conferred the honorary degree, but once it became a controversy, ASU administrators were too worried about appearing insincere.

Read here for more background information on this story.