Should Kanye West be addressed as Dr. West?
Kanye West holds an honorary doctorate degree from The Art Institute of Chicago in 2015. He does not have a PhD., this is the only doctorate he holds. Technically, he should henceforth be called Dr. West, but he has never used that title publicly.
Read on to learn more!
Kanye Has an Honorary Doctorate
Kanye West never graduated from college. He attended painting classes at Chicago’s American Academy of Art in 1997, and then transferred to Chicago State University, where he studied English. This is the extent of Kanye’s time at college though, he dropped out at the age of 20 in order to pursue his dream of making music. The music itself reflects this choice – Kanye’s first three albums were called, respectively, The College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation. He has also since expressed his frustration at not having a college education – like the time he spoke about his regret at not being unable to join the fashion course at London’s Central Saint Martin’s art college.
It appears, however, that Kanye West has finally graduated. He was awarded an honorary degree by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015. And not just any degree, Kanye West was given an honorary doctorate! So yes, technically he ought to be called Dr. West.
At the ceremony that took place at the Institute, Kanye was extended recognition for his “transformative, genre-defying work.” Even though Kanye never lacks confidence – after all, he has even called himself the greatest artist of all time – he seemed rather nervous at the ceremony.
“I don’t feel that feeling a lot, the nerves of humility and modesty when being honored,” he said later, adding, “A humanization, a reality of being recognized. And all I thought as I sit here kind of shaking a little bit is ‘I need to get rid of that feeling. It would have been easier if I could have said that I had a degree at the Art Institute of Chicago.”
At this point, you’re probably confused about what Kanye’s degree actually is. First things first, a doctorate and a Ph.D. are different things. Kanye does not have a Ph.D. in academia, both terms refer to a high distinction that is given to an individual with a master’s and bachelor’s degree. Both focus on a single field of study or discipline, but that is where the similarities end. A doctorate is focused on two categories of work – research and professional. Those who have a doctorate may be called experts in their respective fields.
On the other hand, a Ph.D. or a Doctor of Philosophy is a holder of an academic degree that has the same professional and scholarly characteristics of many doctorate holders, but the work done under the Ph.D. degree is concerned primarily with conducting research as well as having the necessary skill set to do so.
A Ph.D. is thus hardly ever rewarded on an honorary basis. Honorary doctorates are awarded not through academic work, but as a means to honor valuable contributions to culture or society. When accepting his, Kanye said, “I am a pop artist. So my medium is public opinion and the world is my canvas.” Previous recipients of the same degree include Yoko Ono, Jeff Koons, and Marina Abramovic.
Not Everyone Was Happy About Kanye’s Doctorate
Lisa Wainwright is the dean and vice president of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s academic administration, and a part of the committee that decides who gets honorary degrees. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune about the committee’s decision to honor Kanye, she said that her moment of inspiration had been an interview of his that she’d read – in which he says he would have loved to have attended the Institute. “I read it and thought, ‘Wow, this is a fantastic moment.’ Here is this major figure in the cultural landscape promoting art school, this guy from Chicago saying art school is cool. So we thought, ‘This man deserves an honorary doctorate from us!’” she said.
Not everyone of the Institute shared her enthusiasm though. For instance, some former students expressed unhappiness – such as Corinna Kirsch who is now an arts journalist. She wrote, “As an alum of SAIC, I am offended that the school’s exorbitant tuition and fees will help fund this nonsense.”