Should Recipients of an Honorary Doctorate Use the Prefix Dr?

As follow up to the story about the use of the title “Dr.” by Ravi Zacharias and his ministry, I examined the policies of over a dozen colleges and universities both here and abroad.

The most recent statement from Ravi Zacharias claims the following:

In earlier years, “Dr.” did appear before Ravi’s name in some of our materials, including on our website, which is an appropriate and acceptable practice with honorary doctorates. However, because this practice can be contentious in certain circles, we no longer use it.

Zacharias’ ministry claims it is an “appropriate and acceptable practice” to use the title “Dr.” with honorary degrees. I would like to know where that is the case. My research tells a different story.

I found that an honorary doctorate does not grant the privilege of using Dr. as a prefix at most schools. I only found one school which expressly allows (well two if you count an unaccredited school where you can buy a degree). Some schools don’t have policies online, whereas most I consulted advise against it. Below are the policies I found.* I start with the UK schools since this is the world where Ravi Zacharias claims to have gotten some honors.

Oxford Brooks UK

15. Honorary graduates may use the approved post-nominal letters as contained in section A1.1.8 of the University Regulations: ‘Honorary Degrees’. It is not customary, however, for recipients of an honorary doctorate to adopt the prefix ‘Dr’.

If you click through to Section A1.1.8, you see the titles which are supposed to be used by degree recipients after their names (e.g., HonDLitt, for a Doctor of Letters). This alerts the public to the fact that the degree is honorary.

University of Brighton

Honorary graduates shall be advised that recipients of an honorary degree may use the approved designatory letters after their names; Hon DArts, Hon DEng, Hon LLD Hon DLitt, Hon DSc, Hon DTech. It is not customary, however, for recipients of an honorary doctorate to use the title ‘Dr’ in front of their name.

Robert Gordon University Aberdeen

Recipients of an honorary degree may use the approved post-nominal letters [e.g., HonDArts]. It is not customary, however for recipients of an honorary doctorate to adopt the prefix ‘Dr’.

In the U.S., university policies vary in wording but consistently indicate honorary degree recipients should not represent themselves as holding an earned degree.

University of Wisconsin

While a significant and important award, an honorary doctorate does not have the same standing as an earned doctorate and should not be represented as such.

From here on, the policies leave no room for doubt about the matter.

Florida Atlantic University

In no instance will the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Florida Atlantic University represent the award as being an earned doctorate or an earned academic credential of any kind. This award does not entitle the recipient to use the title of “Dr.” or append “Ph.D.” or any other earned degree designation after his/her name. Inappropriate use of the award could result in its withdrawal by action of the President and Provost, with the input of the University Faculty Senate Honors and Awards Committee.

Arcadia University

…always indicate degree was honorary, ie “an honorary doctorate of humanities”; do not refer to person as Dr. if he/she has only an honorary degree.

Delaware Valley University

A recipient of an honorary degree should never be referred to as doctor (if this is the only degree held). In running text: • Drew Becher holds an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Abbreviations of Honorary Degrees • Honorary Doctor of Arts – D.A. (h.c.) • Honorary Doctor of Arts and Human Letters – D.A.H. (h.c.) • Honorary Doctor of Business – D.B. (h.c.) • Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts – D.F.A. (h.c.) • Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters – D.H.L (h.c.) • Honorary Doctor of Liberal Arts – D.L.A. (h.c.) [h.c. abbreviates the Latin honoris causa – “for the cause of honor”]

Drexel University

Do not refer to an honorary degree holder with the courtesy title Dr. or Hon. When referring to someone who holds an honorary degree, make clear that the degree is honorary.

Brandeis University

Recipients of an honorary doctorate do not normally adopt the title of “doctor.” In many countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, it is not usual for an honorary doctor to use the formal title of “doctor,” regardless of the background circumstances for the award.

George Fox University

A person with an honorary doctorate is not called Dr.

Lycoming College

honorary degrees All references to an honorary degree should specify that the degree was honorary. Robert Shangraw ’58, H’04. Do not use Dr. before the name of an individual whose only doctorate is honorary. an honorary doctor of laws degree (emphasis in the original)

University of Richmond

For those who receive honorary degrees, the letter “H” is used after the individual’s name with the date the degree was conferred. Do not refer to someone as “Dr.” if he or she has only an honorary doctorate.

Saint Mary’s University of MN

“Dr.” before a name is acceptable in internal communications to indicate either an academic doctoral degree or a physician’s credential. For external use, use Ph.D., M.D., or similar abbreviation after the name. • do not use the redundant Dr. John Smith, M.D., or Dr. Steve Smith, Ph.D. • do not use “Dr.” for honorary degrees.

Hood College

To designate using the honorary degree • Wil Haygood, LHD (h.c.) The (h.c.) is Latin for “honoris causa.” A recipient of an honorary degree should never be referred to as doctor (if this is the only degree held)

West Virginia University

Honorary degree recipients are properly addressed as “doctor” in correspondence from the university that awarded the honorary degree and in conversation on that campus. But honorary degree recipients should not refer to themselves as “doctor”, nor should they use the title on business cards or in correspondence. However, the recipient is entitled to use the appropriate honorary abbreviation behind his or her name, for example, [full name], Litt.D. On a resume or in a biographical sketch, they may indicate an honorary degree by writing out the degree followed by the words “honoris causa” to signify that the degree is honorary, not earned.

When addressing a person who has received an honorary degree from another university, it is not correct to use the term “doctor” nor should the title be used in correspondence, biographical sketches, introductions, or on place cards.

One school — Lynchburg College in Virginia — allows honorary degree recipients to use the title Dr., but that is the only one I could find among accredited schools during my search.* One other, the Los Angeles Development Church and Institute proudly proclaims that you can make a donation and get an honorary doctorate. Then it is just fine to call yourself doctor.

Although I suspect Ravi Zacharias fans will continue to believe he has been entitled to his title and perhaps still is, this survey of policies should make it clear to an objective observer that the trend is against using the title Dr. with the honorary doctorate alone.

*I stopped after a searching through about two dozen schools when it became apparent that the trend was that an honorary doctorate recipient should not use the title “Dr.” If someone can show me schools I missed with different policies, I will gladly add them to this post.

United States of Trump?

Believe it or not, this isn’t in Alabama.
The part of Western Pennsylvania where I live is a conservative place. Republicans outnumber Democrats and Trump did well here. Some people here like Trump so much they put up a flag with his name on it.
Trump flag clip
Instead of the American flag which Trump wants everybody to stand for, this Trump supporter has hoisted a banner for a little Trump worship.
As for me, I prefer the good old American flag and place my political hope in the genius of the founders who devised a system which I hope will weather the Trump storm and someday return sanity to the land.
 

Christianity Today Podcast: John Stackhouse on Ravi Zacharias and Credential Inflation

This Christianity Today interview with Crandall University professor John Stackhouse is well worth the time. Mark Galli and Morgan Lee get to theRZIM logo heart of the matter of Ravi Zacharias’ inflation of credentials.

Stackhouse revealed that he raised the issue many years ago with two of Zacharias’ staffers only to have the concerns ignored.

Near the end of the interview, Lee asked Stackhouse a key question:

Lee:
John, what do you think with regards to character? So when someone does this and it is revealed that the information in their bio may be exaggerated or may be outright fabrication, is it okay to question their integrity overall?

Stackhouse:
Well, when your whole job is to tell the truth as accurately, carefully, rigorously as possible, when what you’re really asking people to do by setting forth your credentials – which literally comes from the same word as creed or credo – why I should be believed, then you really take on a tremendous burden to speak very circumspectly. And if right out of the gate your credentials are suspect, then what are people supposed to do in the audience when he makes certain claims? Are they all supposed to hit their phones, or tablets and start checking everything you say because the stuff they can check isn’t quite true. Isn’t quite true. And I think as soon as we get into the it’s not quite true phase, I think you’re done. I just don’t think you can continue as an apologist if you’re not going to be scrupulous about telling the truth in a way that you can predict your audience will understand. Otherwise, you’re in the wrong game.

This phrase is a keeper: “I think as soon as we get into the it’s not quite true phase, I think you’re done.”

The issue of credibility and trust is central to the entire problem. As a part of his talks, Ravi Zacharias makes fact claims. Some sound a little suspicious to me. Now that I know that some of his credentials claims are off, I am reluctant to fully trust much else.

Stackhouse’s critique is devastating because he is a Christian apologist in his own right. Although the fans of Zacharias are loyal, I hope Christians continue to bring this to RZIM’s attention and ask for accountability and correction.

Ravi Zacharias International Ministries: We Don't Call Ravi Doctor Except When We Do (UPDATED)

UPDATE: In the afternoon of December 6, RZIM removed the “Dr.” title from Ravi Zacharias name. To see it as it was earlier that day and before, click this link.
(Original post)
Public Relations 101
If you make a public statement, make sure you are complying with it when you make it.
On Sunday, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries said this about Ravi Zacharias use of the title Dr. The pertinent aspects are below:

The veracity of some of the educational credentials—specifically the use of the “doctorate” designation—of our Founder and President, Ravi Zacharias, have been called into question. While Ravi personally does not brandish his credentials and routinely asks not to be referred to as “Dr. Zacharias”—even by employees—our organization bears his name and, as such, we would like to take this opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding.
In earlier years, “Dr.” did appear before Ravi’s name in some of our materials, including on our website, which is an appropriate and acceptable practice with honorary doctorates. However, because this practice can be contentious in certain circles, we no longer use it.

Right now today, when you go to the International Board of Directors page of Ravi Zacharias’ webpage, here is what you will see.
Dr RZ IBM 12 5 17
Then go to this page and this page to see more examples of how this year the ministry has contradicted the statement they released on Sunday.

Why This Matters

This is about what reality you believe.
Reality: Ravi Zacharias and his ministry have improperly brandished the “Dr.” title for many years up to today on their own websites, have asked others to call him that, failed to correct others when it was used improperly. He also claimed honors and appointments he didn’t hold (e.g., “visiting scholar at Cambridge University”).
Reality RZIM is pushing: Ravi is humble and would never brandish the “Dr.” title (as if he has no control over what his ministry does). We (RZIM) used to do it but don’t anymore and we can’t control when other people do it.
Obviously, the ministry and Mr. Zacharias on Sunday weren’t doing what they claimed they had been doing all along. Ministry personnel from the top of the organization to those who create promotional material have referred to Zacharias as Dr. throughout the year up to the present. Those who have heard Zacharias speak at various churches have indicated that he is introduced as Dr. Zacharias repeatedly year after year. It would so refreshing for the ministry to simply admit that Ravi Zacharias’ credentials have been inflated for many years and that they are now committed to simply reporting the facts.

Prior posts on Ravi Zacharias’ credentials.

Is Dr. Zacharias in the House?
Was Ravi Zacharias a Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University?
Speaker at Zacharias Institute Fined $44-Million and Barred from Securities Industry
Fact and Fiction in Ravi Zacharias’ Response to Multiple Allegations of Misconduct
 

Fact and Fiction in Ravi Zacharias' Responses to Allegations of Misconduct

Earlier today, Ravi Zacharias issued statements regarding the allegations of sexting with a Canadian woman and misrepresenting his academic credentials. Apparently, he gave Christianity Today notice of the statements since they published an article about the issue around the time the statements appeared.
I suspect his followers will be placated by these statements. However, there are problems with both of the statements. Let me begin with his statement regarding his biography. My comments are interspersed within his statement:

The veracity of some of the educational credentials—specifically the use of the “doctorate” designation—of our Founder and President, Ravi Zacharias, have been called into question. While Ravi personally does not brandish his credentials and routinely asks not to be referred to as “Dr. Zacharias”—even by employees—our organization bears his name and, as such, we would like to take this opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding.

Just last week I found numerous instance of his own websites referring to him as “Dr. Zacharias.” I have the screen caps of the websites to prove it. Here is just one from April 12, 2017 which I captured last week from the RZIM You Tube account.  I intend to pull together more.

RZIM Youtube rzDR

On the last line, RZIM refers to Zacharias as “Dr. Ravi Zacharias.”

Listen to the first few seconds of this video in April, 2017 at Temple University. Zacharias is introduced at this RZIM event as Dr. Zacharias.

Here is one of his senior staff Vince Vitale calling him Dr. Ravi Zacharias in his own institute in March.

Here is an ad put out by RZIM for his appearance at University of Michigan earlier this year. Watch to the end and you will see that this RZIM produced ad promoted Zacharias as Dr. Ravi Zacharias.

How many more of these will it take to demonstrate that this statement from RZIM isn’t correct?

For another one, click this link to see Zacharias’ complete bio from RZIM’s Academy referring to him as Dr. Zacharias taken 11/27/17.
RZIM academy 11 27 17

As of tonight, the RZIM Academy website has been scrubbed and revamped to cleanse it of all references to Dr. There is no misunderstanding. The organization has been busy covering up the evidence. Why can’t they just acknowledge that?

You can see it on the web still at the Canadian website.

Neither Ravi Zacharias nor Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) has ever knowingly misstated or misrepresented Ravi’s credentials. When it has been brought to our attention that something was stated incorrectly with regard to Ravi’s background, we have made every effort to correct it. Sometimes other entities—such as publishers or institutions where Ravi was speaking—have incorrectly presented aspects of his credentials. We were not aware of these errors when they were made; however, in some instances RZIM should have caught them and sought to have them corrected. We regret any and all errors, as well as any doubt or distraction they may have caused.

If that is true, then why go to such lengths to cover up the changes? It is very hard to take any of this seriously when it is obvious that Zacharias and his organization have brandished the title Dr. and are now denying it.

Currently, eleven RZIM team members have earned doctorates. Ravi is not one of them, nor has he ever claimed to have an earned doctorate. In fact, Ravi often states that he wishes he had done more formal studies, as he values and understands the importance of higher learning. Ravi has a Masters of Divinity from Trinity International University, and has also been conferred with ten honorary doctorates. Ravi is grateful for and humbled by where the Lord has taken him during his 45 years of ministry thus far.

In earlier years, “Dr.” did appear before Ravi’s name in some of our materials, including on our website, which is an appropriate and acceptable practice with honorary doctorates. However, because this practice can be contentious in certain circles, we no longer use it.

Actually, it appeared in numerous materials, not some, and no, it is not appropriate and acceptable. If it was, he wouldn’t be taking it down.

In addition, some confusion may have arisen from a difference in cultural norms, as we are a global organization with staff members based in sixteen countries. In Ravi’s homeland of India, for example, honorific titles are customary and are used frequently out of respect for elders, including by the RZIM India team when addressing Ravi. Still, it is Ravi’s custom to request for the inviting parties not to use “Dr.” with his name in conjunction with any speaking events. Despite this, on occasion it has been our experience that we arrive to find promotional banners and materials welcoming “Dr. Ravi Zacharias.” We will continue to do our best to ensure consistency; however, we recognize that certain aspects are sometimes beyond our control.

This is simply not credible, given the number of times his own organization has used and continues to use the title Dr. with Zacharias. If it is Ravi’s custom to request that inviting parties not use “Dr.”, why can’t his own social media team get the memo? Here is a tweet from RZIM India’s Twitter account on November 19. There are many like it.

The nature of our work at RZIM can evoke criticism, sometimes fair—in which case we address it—but sometimes completely unfounded and without merit. For example, recently a couple of inquirers claimed to have information that Ravi was facing discipline from his denomination. This is simply false and has never been the case, and it serves as an example of why we choose not to address certain accusations that come our way.

Given the spin being used in the statement above, I don’t accept this statement at face value. My sources have explained that he was investigated but is not now under discipline.

We will be more vigilant about editing and fact-checking at every stage. Our hope is that this will enable us to focus on our primary calling of helping people to encounter the claims and person of Jesus Christ, and will enable others to focus on the strength and merit of our message.

Ravi’s desire and our desire as an evangelistic ministry is to engage the honest skeptic, to take questions seriously, and to be as clear as possible in our communication. We therefore have restructured Ravi’s biography to better reflect his 45 years as an itinerant evangelist and apologist with a passion and a calling to reach those who shape the ideas of culture with the beauty and credibility of the gospel.

There is nothing in this statement about Zacharias’ claim to be a “visiting scholar at Cambridge University.” He clearly was not but didn’t address this false claim along with others in his bio. He simply removed all claims in the current bio.

While I am not a target of the kind of material Zacharias puts out, I have become a skeptic of his ministry. I had hoped he would truly face the distortions and exaggerations of his credentials. He did not do so in a way that would lead me to trust his work.

My Journey Away from Reparative Therapy

Over the past few weeks, I have written about the Nashville Statement. In doing so, I realized that many readers here haven’t followed this blogclass2
since the beginning (2005) and aren’t aware of my work in the area of sexual identity. In fact, I would say a significant number of readers came along in 2014 when I wrote about Mars Hill Church.
On Saturday, Yahoo News published a profile of my work by Senior Political Correspondent Jon Ward. In the well written piece, Jon focused on my prior support for sexual orientation change efforts. However, he also connected the dots from that work to my opposition to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill and later opposition to Christian nationalism and megachurch exploitation. I appreciate Jon’s careful attention to the nuances in the story.
If you are interested in more information about how I went from being a supporter of reorientation therapy to being a vocal opponent and how that journey connects to current interests, I encourage you to go read Jon’s profile.