What does it feel like to study in a university that has conferred honorary degrees to figures with moral standing you oppose? In certain universities, students and faculty are able to express their opinion to their school’s board of trustees.
One example is Lehigh University’s faculty, which now deeply regrets presenting US President Donald Trump with an honorary degree 30 years ago.
According to USA Today, an overwhelming majority (83 percent) of the 350 faculty members voted to ask the private research institution’s board of trustees to rescind the honour. Another 14 percent voted against it while three percent chose to abstain, according to student newspaper The Brown and White.
Michael Raposa, who helped draft the motion, told CNN faculty wanted to reflect that they “don’t want Lehigh to be identified with the kind of sexist, racist, and Islamophobic utterances”.
The motion says Trump does not deserve the honour “based on a long history of numerous documented statements that are antithetical to our core values and beneath the standard for Lehigh’s honorary degrees holders.”
The vote is an example of faculty members advancing their perspective via the university process, Doug Mahoney, the chair of the faculty steering committee said.
“The faculty spoke, and I think spoke rather strongly, in terms of the number of faculty participating and the overwhelming support of the motion as written.”
The vote will now be conveyed to the university’s board of trustees, who will then decide how to proceed with this.
“Though the faculty motion has not yet been formally submitted to the Trustees, Lehigh University affirms the right of community members to express their views, as free inquiry and expression are essential to a thriving academic community,” Lori Friedman, a spokeswoman for the university wrote to The Washington Post.
Trump was conferred an honorary degree by Lehigh in 1988. Since his inauguration, people connected to Lehigh have been trying to strip him of the honour, just like Bill Cosby’s was.
This university gave Trump and Bill Cosby honorary degrees. The faculty have deep regrets. 100% correct idea/action. Trump is & always will be a corrupt morally repugnant fraud/liar that should never be associated with places of higher learning & values. https://t.co/ohqTx8H4Yb pic.twitter.com/Oe9hDmb3Z0
— MRBCforProgress (@mrbc1848vu) March 1, 2018
A Change.org petition was created by a recent Lehigh graduate Kelly McKoy last year following Trump’s response to the deadly protest last year in Charlottesville. White supremacists had joined a “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal of a statue of a leader in the pro-slavery Confederate army, known as an affront to African-Americans.
The rally turned into a national tragedy for the sleepy university town when a 20-year-old Adolf Hitler fan smashed his car into the crowd, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 19 others, Reuters reported.
The online petition gained more than 31,000 signatures, according to the Washington Post.