In a Feb. 12 meeting, faculty members from across Lehigh’s colleges voted in favor of hosting an electronic vote on the motion to rescind President Donald Trump’s honorary degree.
The electronic vote will be administered within the next 10 days, at which point faculty members will have seven full days to cast their votes.
Michael Raposa, a professor of religion studies, was the faculty member who presented the motion. He said that exactly one month ago on January 12, a group of faculty members started a conversation about how they might respond to recent statements made by Trump. Raposa said Trump has a history of making statements that are racist, sexist, Islamaphobic or offensive in other ways.
The faculty motion includes three pages of statements made by Trump which faculty members believe “do not meet Lehigh’s standards for respectful discourse where differences of opinion exist.”
“We should not be bystanders,” Raposa said. “The trustees’ decision has no bearing on, nor can it undermine, the public and symbolic significance of what we choose to do.”
Faculty members voted against recording the respective college of each respondent in the electronic vote.
“This is a faculty motion, not a college motion,” said Benjamin Wright, a professor of religion studies.
Anne Anderson, a finance professor, said there should be future discussion about a process to remove honorary degrees.
“If we’re going to review one, we might as well review them all,” Anderson said.
Ziad Munson, a professor of sociology, said the board of trustees implemented its own process to revoke honorary degrees when its members rescinded Bill Cosby’s degree two years ago. Munson said the matter is difficult to explain to students, as Cosby — an African American — was stripped of his honorary degree and Trump — a white man — still holds his.
If the board of trustees stands by its decision to take ‘no action’ on Trump’s honorary degree, the motion asks members to provide an “explanation of how (Trump’s statements) square with (Lehigh’s) values and the principles of our equitable community, and are consistent with the character and high standards expected of honorees.”