Backlash over plans to present former President George W. Bush with a humanitarian award was based on a mix-up on a University of Denver website, a school spokeswoman said Monday.
A number of students, faculty and alumni had protested in recent weeks after noticing that a DU website had listed Bush as the speaker at a dinner for the Josef Korbel School of International Studies in September, when he was scheduled to receive an award for "Improving the Human Condition", the Colorado Independent reported. More than 1,500 people signed a petition calling on the university to choose a different honoree.
After the petition gained steam, the Korbel dean's office said in a letter to the DU community that, while the name of the award "has been in the Josef Korbel School lexicon for several years," they would give the award a different name.
"The title 'Improving the Human Condition' -– a Josef Korbel School tagline -- was prematurely posted on the website as the award title. It had not been confirmed when posted and several names were being considered," DU spokeswoman Kim DeVigil told The Huffington Post. "Last week, the name was confirmed to be the 'Global Service Award.'"
Critics have objected to giving the former president any award that suggests humanitarian contributions, because his administration opened the indefinite detention camp at Guantanamo Bay and used water-boarding on detainees during interrogations.
DeVigil said the school changes the name of its annual award to reflect the contributions of the Korbel dinner's keynote speaker.
"For example Walter Isaacson, who was keynote speaker in 2012, received the Global Advancement Award; Ban Ki-moon, keynote speaker in 2011, received the Global Leadership Award; and Condoleezza Rice, keynote in 2010, received the Outstanding Alumnae Award," DeVigil said. "In keeping with this tradition and as appropriate, this year we will give the Global Service Award to George W. Bush for his Presidential and post-Presidential work in Africa on AIDS, cervical cancer and malaria."
Bush did receive support for the award, including from Denver Post editorial page editor Vincent Carroll and Floyd Ciruli, a member of the Korbel School's Social Science Foundation Board.