UPDATE (Aug. 19, 12:45 p.m.): The petition now has more than 20,000 supporters.
UPDATE (Aug. 17, 3:45 p.m.): Student Senate issued a statement that praised members of the Lehigh community for executing their First Amendment rights and welcomed representatives to discuss their opinions during upcoming Senate meetings
“We look forward to having an open and respectable dialogue in relation to this topic,” read the statement.
UPDATE (Aug. 17, 2:43 p.m.): The petition has surpassed 15,000 signatures.
UPDATE (Aug. 17, 1:00 p.m.): Lehigh College Republicans issued a statement opposing the petition, alleging that rescinding Trump’s degree would show the world that the university is “okay with impulsively rewriting our school’s rich and diverse history and demonstrating an intolerance towards differing opinions.”
Though it cautioned against “grandiose and completely symbolic gestures that do little to solve the issues facing us as a nation,” the statement praised the Lehigh community for engaging in peaceful political protest.
UPDATE (Aug. 17, 12:12 p.m.): This article has been updated to include quotes from Kelly McCoy.
A petition to rescind Donald Trump’s honorary degree from Lehigh University surpassed 6,500 signatures Wednesday, amid controversy regarding the president’s response to recent racially charged protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The petition, which was started by alumna Kelly McCoy, ’17, on Tuesday, is addressed to Lehigh President John D. Simon and lists the ways in which Trump’s behavior and statements are antithetical to the university’s “Principles of Our Equitable Community.”
“Allowing Donald Trump to retain his honorary degree represents a hollow and superficial ideological commitment from Lehigh to these principles,” the petition read.
Simon had reacted to the events in Charlottesville by issuing a statement Monday that urged the university community to “affirm our values – equality, peaceful dialogue, the free exchange of ideas, the encouragement of respectful debate, and the condemnation and repudiation and its manifestation in violence.”
“In times such as these,” Simon wrote in the statement, “universities have an important role.”
McCoy — who, full disclosure, is a former design editor for The Brown and White — said she was motivated to start the petition after seeing the way in which Trump’s rhetoric and policies upset people she knew and made them feel unsafe.
As a graduate she sees herself as an ambassador for Lehigh. By holding an honorary degree, she said, Trump also bears the responsibility of reflecting the values the university has committed itself to.
University Communications told The Brown and White that if Lehigh receives the petition, it will be handled through established governance processes.
McCoy said Simon confirmed Thursday morning that he received the petition and is forwarding it to the board of trustees.
The next scheduled board meeting is Oct. 25-27. McCoy said she hopes to meet with members soon to discuss the petition.
The question of revoking Trump’s honorary Lehigh degree, which he received during the 1988 commencement, has been raised in the past, even before he was elected.
While some professors encouraged the board of trustees to discuss the matter, others felt that removing Trump’s name from the records would not achieve anything of merit with regard to the university’s future.
Trump, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, also holds honorary doctorates from Wagner College and Liberty University. Robert Gordon University in Scotland revoked his honorary degree in 2015 following derogatory remarks he made during his campaign about Muslims.
Additional reporting by Managing Editor Rebecca Wilkin.