Taylor Swift Received an Honorary Doctorate From NYU Over the Weekend, and Everyone's Mad

For some reason?

Taylor swift NYU graduation
Photo: Getty Images

The list of things Taylor Swift doesn't have continues to shrink as the Grammy-award-winning artist beloved by millions can now add "honorary doctor of fine arts" to her already impressive resumé after last weekend. While the general consensus following the New York University ceremony seems to be that, one: T-Swift delivered a killer speech that was equal parts humorous, inspirational, and wholly deserving of a feature on every midwesterner post-grad's Instagram story (apparently); and two: She stays rocking a red lip like nobody's business, an underlying counter-opinion refuses to be ignored.

Take one look at the comment section of any post mentioning Swift's degree, and you're sure to be met with hordes of internet trolls enraged at her newfound status. For every few Swiftie shoutouts, there's someone arguing that honorary degrees are "disrespectful," "pathetic," and "unearned." How many of these scorned commenters hold doctorates themselves (honorary or otherwise), you may wonder? Inconclusive, but they sure are pissed that Taylor does.

Of course, my immediate reaction as a die-hard Swiftie is to jump to the singer's defense, quoting "Long Live" all the while, but after brief reflection, I can see where the angry commenters are coming from. As someone who grabbed my B.S. in journalism and immediately got the heck out of dodge, I can only imagine the effort that goes into obtaining a doctorate. The hours of studying. The missed events. The immense pressures of student debt. And to watch a celebrity waltz on stage and receive a similar honor without any of the work? It's understandable how it could leave one feeling a bit deflated.

Obviously, this is no fault of Swift herself — she merely took up a once-in-a-lifetime offer that hundreds of colleges give out every year. And, for what it's worth, she was sure to acknowledge the absurdity of it all in her speech, joking, "I'm 90% sure the main reason I'm here is because I have a song called '22,'" and clarifying, "I in no way feel qualified to tell [you graduates] what to do. You've worked and struggled and sacrificed and studied and dreamed your way here today." But it does beg the question of whether honorary degrees are really necessary to pay tribute to a person's artistic achievement, or if celebrities could just give a commencement address and go on their merry way, no doctorate necessary.

Either way, it's easy for us to think these uber-successful celebs couldn't care less about an honorary degree, but for some, that's far from accurate. Missy Elliott broke down in tears when receiving her honor from Boston's Berklee College of Music in 2019, as did Justin Timberlake during the same ceremony. While Celine Dion and Pharell Williams were less emotional while receiving their recognitions two years later, they both shared well-wishes that likely served as a bit of excitement in the otherwise underwhelming mid-pandemic virtual commencements of 2021.

Whether these celebrities "truly earned" their honorary doctorates or not, it's important to remember none of them are saying they did. No celebrity who's been given such an honor thinks to add "Ph.D." to their Instagram bio, update their LinkedIn, or minimize what actual graduates have accomplished, so why is there a movement to grab our pitchforks and torches every time they try to help liven up a long-winded ceremony? In a way, we should be thanking them — or at the very least, refraining from sending more hate out into the internet abyss. Because at the end of the day, people will continue to graduate, celebrities will continue to speak, and the world will continue to turn.

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