Black Watch Playwright Burke Turns Down Honorary Degree Due to Controversy

News   Black Watch Playwright Burke Turns Down Honorary Degree Due to Controversy Award-winning playwright Gregory Burke, whose Black Watch took the Best New Play Award at the 2009 Olivier Awards, has turned down an honorary degree he was to receive from his former alma mater, Stirling University, following complaints about an assault he carried out on a fellow student when he was a student there.

Burke, who subsequently dropped out (his degree would have been in politics and economics) without graduating, had been banned from campus following the attack, and it has been reported in The Times of London that he was "only allowed onto the university to attend lectures and visit the library as punishment for attacking the man."

Burke is quoted saying, "I got banned from campus for a fight. I'm not going to apologize for that. Coming from Dunfermline, if someone looked at you squint, you went across and battered them. That was it. I just done it. I was only allowed to go to lectures and the library for about a year."

However, following complaints from his victim Mark Campbell, Burke has formally declined the offer of the honorary degree. The University's principal, Christine Hallett, has written to Campbell, stating, "Whilst the university was considering the position (including seeking legal advice in the absence of any explicit power in its instruments of governance to rescind the award of an honorary degree), Mr. Burke has advised the university that he wishes to decline the offer of award of honorary degree. He explains that he does not wish to embarrass anyone at the university or to make any member of the alumni feel uncomfortable. May I repeat my apology for the deep distress which has been caused to you, your family and others by this episode."

The BBC news website reports that Campbell's brother Michael said, "We as a family, and Mark in particular, were disgusted that the university made the offer of this degree to Gregory Burke. We understand that Mr. Burke has remade his life as a playwright, but unfortunately Mr. Burke has continued for the last number of years to glory in this event and to talk about it as if it's a badge of honour. He has never to this day shown any remorse."

Burke's latest play, Hoors, begins a run at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre May 1. It is described in publicity materials as a "wickedly funny black comedy about a group of twenty-thirtysomethings who wake up and find the party's over". It revolves around a man called Andy, whose stag weekend in Amsterdam and Hamburg is "so epic, so legendary" that he doesn't make it to his own wedding.

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