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As I am on the cusp of my collegiate freedom, I can't help but reminisce on the process that's gotten me this far.

I remember being an intimidated teenager stepping onto campus for the first time — not quite sure how to navigate from class to class, but confident, nonetheless, I would navigate myself into a successful future. I'm sure most recent graduates would agree that their individual paths, perplexed with obstacles and triumphs, were vital to catapulting them into earning that much-coveted degree.

Knowing the determination, persistence and resilience it takes to complete both an undergraduate and graduate degree, I can't understand Kanye West being awarded an honorary doctoral degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago without having to complete any preliminary coursework.

I can admit that West's career has been consistently influential over the past decade. He is a major cultural icon in the music, fashion and entertainment industry. His career and accomplishments are probably what some students are striving for at SAIC, which is why their efforts shouldn't have been undermined through the school's method to honor West's visionary abilities.

In our society, most artists have an "immunity" to the things that make up everyday life. That means they are shielded from being normal by their superior caliber and money.

Although West initially earned critical acclaim by revealing the truth about his college years in his debut album The College Dropout, the 37-year-old may not be aware of the hardships that most students endure to stay in college.

When a student goes to graduate school, they have already experienced four previous years of either self-financing their degree, or sleepless nights of research or studying. In addition to the coursework of their undergrad years, a Ph.D. may require a student to pass an entrance exam, take a certain number of credit hours per semester and defend research in their dissertation. In total, the process from undergrad to doctoral status can take up to eight years.

I believe that anyone committed to success and change should be honored in some way or another, but the entertainment industry and the education system are separate entities that honor during separate award ceremonies.

Artists like West look forward to annual televised award shows, such as The Grammys, American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards and MTV Video Music Awards. Whereas students look forward to one special moment where they can walk across the stage in front of their peers, family and friends to be spotlighted for their hard work. That time will never be duplicated.

I understand SAIC's intentions to celebrate a unique artist that has advocated for art school and pushed the limits on creativity, but quite frankly, there could have been another way. They could have donated a specific location at the school to West, or even started a scholarship foundation for SAIC students in his name.

But in the words of Dr. West, "this is just my opinion."

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Shanae Hardy is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaeH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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