On Thursday, May 25, the University of Sydney Business School awarded an honorary doctorate of science in economics to James T. Dominguez, a businessman whose interests include campaigning against marriage equality.
Dominguez is a founding director of The Marriage Alliance, an organisation founded in 2015 which describes itself as “an independent alliance bringing together individuals and organisations supporting a common cause”. It says it “exist[s] to voice the opinion of the silent majority of Australians that respect same-sex attracted people, but do not want to change the current definition of marriage.” The organisation is known for the advertising campaign against marriage equality they attempted to launch in 2015, which consisted of television ads based around the slogan “there’s more to it than you think”.
Dominguez also made a submission to the Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill, which states in the preamble, “the position of those members of the community who are uncomfortable with [same-sex marriage] merits serious attention from lawmakers.” In the same submission, he cites the Safe Schools program’s information on masturbation as an example of “the extremism of some supporters of same sex marriage”. His submission, however, is not once quoted in the report tabled by the committee in February.
In the citation given at the award ceremony, Dominguez is described as “a long-standing member of Sydney’s financial and business community” and “a pioneer in the Australian financial markets”.
After an extensive list of public and private councils and boards which he has served on, the citation says, “Mr Dominguez has also been a contributing member of the Catholic Church. In that role he was an influential activist in community issues which he saw as important”, ostensibly referencing his campaigning against marriage equality.
In USyd’s honorary awards policy, the criteria listed for the award of an honorary degree are academic eminence, distinguished creative achievement, outstanding contribution beyond the expectations of the person’s particular field or, in the case of a civic office holder, an outstanding contribution to the advancement of society. While it may be true that Dominguez has satisfied the given criteria, the inclusion of his campaigning work as part of his cited merits is an odd choice.
This is not the first controversial choice for honorary doctorate that the University has made; in September of last year, students protested the University’s decision to award former Prime Minister John Howard an honorary doctorate of Letters in Arts and Law.
Dominguez, an alumnus of USyd, was also appointed a Fellow of Senate in 1992, and later sat on the governing board of the University of Notre Dame for over a decade.
Bizarrely, his citation also notes that he was “the only non-Asian” who served “on the board of a Singapore-listed company”.