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                             Am I Doctor Stallman?

Richard Stallman


   After receiving 15 doctorates honoris causa -- doctorates "for honor",
   though typically people use the misleading translation "honorary" -- I
   thought I had a clear idea of how they are given. The ceremonies were
   serious, even solemn, and if others were receiving doctorates honoris
   causa in the same ceremony, they were people whose achievements
   impressed me.

   So I was shocked to read an article which describes this as a sleazy
   marketing scheme, and claims that recipients of these degrees are not
   supposed to call themselves "Doctor."

   The article says that universities hand out "honorary doctorates"
   readily to donors who have essentially bought them, and to performing
   artists so that they will entertain the students at graduation.

   The article is not error-free. For instance, it calls me an
   "open-source software pioneer," which misrepresents my views and my
   work. However, what it reports about universities seems to be correct,
   in the US; a friend told me he had seen that pattern himself.

   But my experience is totally different. I am not an entertainer, except
   for a few minutes when I don the robe and halo of Saint iGNUcius, and
   that is comic relief for a long, serious talk. I never donated money to
   the universities that gave me doctorates, nor could they expect me to.
   What's more, I never saw such people receive degrees along with me. The
   other recipients, when there were others, were likewise being honored
   for their work, not as a quid-pro-quo.

   Why this difference? My doctorates come from universities in other
   countries, not in the US. I conjecture that buy-a-doctorate and
   sing-for-your-doctorate are found in the US only. (How sad for the US!)

   On all the occasions when I received a doctorate, nobody said to me
   that I should not use the title of Doctor. Indeed, an academic told me
   that universities would extend to me certain minor privileges, treating
   that doctorate like any other. So I began identifying myself as Dr.

   Of course, I do that in formal situations, in connection with talks,
   interviews and publications, not in ordinary conversation. Though I do
   occasionally tell people that they don't need to call me Dr. Dr. Dr.
   Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Stallman.

   Nonetheless, on reading that Florida Atlantic University explicitly
   says that recipients of doctorates honoris causa are not permitted the
   title of Doctor, I began to wonder about the policies of the
   universities which had given me degrees, so I asked people at some of
   those universities about their policies.

   The replies were quite disparate. One said, like Florida Atlantic, that
   it was not permitted. Another said I should write "Dr.(h.c.)." Another
   said it had no objection. So it seems that I am entitled to call myself
   Dr. Stallman.

   Why do I do that? The personal reason is that these doctorates
   recognize decades of work for an important cause, and I am proud of

   The reason that is beyond personal is so that people who know little or
   nothing of my career may decide, based on the title of "Doctor", to pay
   a little attention to that work and that cause, which is the free
   software movement. That may help us defeat the totalitarian control
   that today's digital technology is designed to impose.

   Copyright 2021 Richard Stallman Released under Creative Commons
   Noderivatives 3.0 license
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