It is spring. Flowers are blooming, and colleges and universities are preparing for graduation, along with the arrival of their commencement speakers, who will say a few words and receive honorary degrees.
Arizona State is disproportionately in the news because someone decided it is a little early to give an honorary degree to President Obama, who they invited to be the commencement speaker. Many are understandably puzzled, pointing out that becoming the nation’s first African-American President is, in itself, quite a body of work.
Of course, that sort of agonizing cannot happen at MIT because if you want an MIT degree, you have to earn it at MIT. If you earn an undergraduate degree at MIT, you are certified to know something about classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, calculus, chemistry, molecular biology, and quite a few humanities subjects, in addition to those stipulated by your major. If you earn a degree of any kind at MIT, you are certified to know what it is like to work your guts out; you will have had many all-nighters.
Better yet, MIT has no cum laude decorations that would make a degree without a decoration second class. If you earn a degree from MIT, it is just as good as any other degree from MIT. It means you might as well start inventing the future, instead of just grubbing for grades.
We at MIT thrive on being different, especially when a difference arises from our meritocratic tradition.