A group of lecturers at Jakarta State University (UNJ) have voiced their opposition to the university's plan to award honorary doctorates to Vice President Ma'ruf Amin and State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir, citing fears of political motives that could threaten academic freedom.
In a written statement published on Friday, the lecturers explained their disapproval of the plan.
"Awarding the title to a political figure who is currently in power could threaten academic freedom and the autonomy of the university," the statement read.
"A number of studies show that giving honorary titles to state officials has no positive impact on science and campus development. Granting titles has tended to have political and transactional motives."
The group said the plan worked against the university's efforts to recover its reputation following numerous controversies, including an arrest of a campus official in May for allegedly giving illegal holiday bonuses to officials from the Education and Culture Ministry.
They lecturers accused the university of having no clear reason to grant the title to Ma'ruf.
They also rejected UNJ's plan to grant an honorary degree to Erick, saying that the university had no reason to give it to him besides his position as minister.
"It's very dangerous for the university's autonomy and its academic freedom [...]. Therefore, we urge UNJ to cancel its plan to give the honorary titles to Vice President Ma'ruf Amin and SEO Minister Erick Thohir," the lecturers concluded, as quoted by kompas.com.
Awarding honorary doctorates to politicians and public figures is common in Indonesian universities.
In 2017, former maritime affairs and fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti received an honorary maritime affairs doctorate from the Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology in Surabaya.
It was her second honorary degree after receiving a similar title from Diponegoro University in Semarang a year before.
Former presidents Susilo Bambang Yudoyono and Megawati Soekarno Putri have collected 14 and 9 honorary doctorates respectively, from both Indonesian and foreign universities. (nal)