In 1996, Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny was awarded an honorary degree from Yale University in the United States for being “one of the world’s most environmentally conscious business leaders.” Less than a decade later, this leader in environmental consciousness was found guilty in the deaths of over 2,000 Italian residents.
Mr. Schmidheiny is the retired CEO of Eternit and was convicted to 18 years in prison by an Italian court in 2013. Now, people all over the world are calling for the revocation of the honorary degree awarded by Yale all those years ago.
Asbestos Victims: Asbestos victims are some of the most obvious in opposition to Mr. Schmidheiny’s award. The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization has stood behind the calls for the revocation of the degree since Mr. Schmidheiny’s sentencing, and made a public request in a published letter in March 2014.
Yale Alumni: Over 50 Yale alumni have signed a petition calling for the revocation of Schmidheiny’s degree. Among those who signed the petition include well-known asbestos researchers, as well as doctors and academics who have said, “Asbestos exposure is a seminal issue in occupational health in the United States. It’s not an esoteric issue.”
35 Italian Towns: Most recently, mayors from 35 Italian towns have come forward within a letter calling for the degree to be revoked from Mr. Schmidheiny. This statement was included in their letter: “We consider it unacceptable that a criminal such as he is, a man who has shown no respect for human life, should be allowed to continue to bear the sign of your appreciation and honor.”
Despite the pleas and petitions, Yale University has refused to revoke Stephan Schmidheiny’s honorary degree. What do you think Yale should do? Please share your thoughts within a comment below.