Perth’s Curtin University has sparked online protests over its decision to award the wife of Malaysia’s prime minister an honorary doctorate, with some students reportedly burning their degrees.
Hundreds of past and present students, mostly Malaysian, have called for a boycott of the university and demanded it revoke the honorary doctorate of letters it awarded to Rosmah Mansor.
One student has posted a video of a degree being burnt and another posted a photo of a degree that had been ripped to shreds, with the comment: “Shame on Curtin University.”
Mrs Rosmah was presented with the honorary doctorate at the university’s campus in south Perth last Saturday.
Curtin vice-chancellor Jeanette Hacket has defended the award, saying Mrs Rosmah was recognised as the founder and driving force behind early childhood centres in Malaysia.
The university said today it had “no choice but to temporarily suspend comments” on its Facebook wall because of the comments about the award.
A Facebook page, titled Boycott Curtin University Until Rosmah Mansor’s Doctorate Revoked, has hundreds of posts and 1697 “likes”.
Ms Hacket said in a statement today the university recognised the award had attracted criticism from sectors of the Malaysian community.
“The university’s honorary awards policy has criteria for the awarding of an honorary doctorate and nominations go through a process which engages several committees within the university.
“Each nomination is considered on its own merits,” Ms Hacket said.
“Her Excellency Datin Sri Rosmah was recognised as the founder and driving force behind the Permata early childhood centres which enable children below the age of five to experience quality early learning.”
Some Malaysian students say the Government-funded Permata project is an abuse of taxpayers’ money.
In Malaysia, Mrs Rosmah has been criticised over reports of her extravagant spending.
Agence France Press reported today that accusations include reports she spent tens of thousands of dollars on clothes from an Australian designer and bought a $24 million diamond ring and a $200,000 designer handbag.
She has denied the accusations.
Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini quoted Mrs Rosmah as saying her critics might be “jealous” over her award.
“I don’t want to handle personal petty issues. It is all out of frustration. It is all out of ... I don’t know ... Maybe jealousy,“ she said.