Some years ago now I spent a few months studying at Stirling University. It was just beginning to develop a name for itself and was attracting students from around the world.
Only last week I was pleased to read they were going to offer Gregory Burke, the author of the anti-war play Black Watch, an honorary degree even though he had been banned from campus while he was studying there in the 1980s following an unprovoked attack on fellow student Mark Campbell. Well deserved I thought and again regretted I had never managed to see his efforts but I heard lots about it from friends who were lucky enough to buy tickets.
This week's The Sunday Times reports that the university was preparing to withdraw the offer after the victim's brother Michael Campbell wrote to Christine Hallet, the principal, to register his family's "disgust". Burke emailed the university to say he no longer wanted to accept the award to avoid causing further embarrassment.
Now the university has announced it is to honour John Reid who studied history at the university and was a former president of the student union, "in recognition of his outstanding contribution to public affairs". Students and politicians condemned the proposal, given Reid's support for the Iraq war and its aftermath which has claimed the lives of 179 British troops. Kevin McVey, president of the university's Socialist Students Society, said students planned to demonstrate when Reid receives his honour from James Naughtie, at the graduation ceremony next month.
"What John Reid did as defence minister has brought dishonour to the university and they should not be honouring him," he said. "He was the man who famously said that troops in Afghanisan wouldn't fire a shot and we have become increasingly embroiled in a war there." Other people, including Rose Gentle whose son was killed in Iraq, are quoted as being very much against this accolade for John Reid.
A spokesman for Stirling University said, "Dr John Reid is a graduate of the university and has been a good friend to the university over the years. He is being recognised for his contribution to politics in the UK."
Forgive me if I'm wrong but could 'good friend' mean ' good benefactor'? How does having a fight with another student when you're young and daft compare with someone who, as defence minister, made decisions which have been instrumental in the deaths of 149 of our soldiers in Iraq and 154 in Afghanistan?
I certainly know who I would like to be honoured, do you?