Donald Trump speaks at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States of America on Nov. 9. (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)

Lehigh community petitions to rescind Trump’s honorary degree


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.

A clip from the November 20, 1987 issue of The Brown and White announces Donald Trump will be the 1988 commencement speaker. Following racially charged events in Virginia on Saturday, thousands of members of the Lehigh community signed a petition urging the university to rescind Trump’s honorary degree. (Courtesy of the Brown and White Archives)

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.

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  1. This is indeed a very sad day for the nation and for the Lehigh community. The purpose of ‘education’ is to be able to think for yourself and ultimately, to stand for something. In the case of this feckless petition, it only serves as a mirror to a MSM that has never gotten past its role and part in operation mockingbird- the WaPo in particular. And if we are to begin some kind of effort to weed out any other recipients of Lehigh degrees, then we must also include Marty Baron who serves as editor in chief of a paper that now only exists due to a 600 million dollar contract between owner Jeff Bezos and the CIA.

    One of the first things I think young people, especially nowadays, should learn is how to see for yourself and listen for yourself and think for yourself. Then you can come to an intelligent decision for yourself. If you form the habit of going by what you hear others say about someone, or going by what others think about someone, instead of searching that thing out for yourself and seeing for yourself, you will be walking west when you think you’re going east, and you will be walking east when you think you’re going west.
    – Malcolm X

    • A Talking Zebra on

      What a ridiculous assertion. People are thinking for themselves, and they are thinking that Donald Trump, from HIS OWN statements, doesn’t represent Lehigh.

      Protecting the institution from Trump improves the future of students and alumni

  2. We should wipe away the stench of this human offal as quickly as possible. Lehigh should repudiate him officially, publicly, and loudly. Any alumni that equivocate should be ashamed.

  3. This is an absurd petition considering that Trump is rightfully repudiating hatred from all sides & considering the riots since the night of his election he is proper to point out that both sides need to tone down the rhetoric.

    • Your President is absurd. You cannot equate an organization that is based on hatred and racism to people who are fighting for the rights of others. Your comment is repulsive.

      • How are people attacking Trump supporters at Trump rallies fighting for the rights of others? How are Black Lives Matter marchers calling out for dead cops fighting for the rights of others? The left is significantly more mean spirited then the Trump supporter community & that has been obvious during the entire election cycle & post election.

        • Robert Davenport on

          It seems to me that both the far right and the far left treat like dirt those with whom they disagree. Both also have “good people” which neither would admit of the other. For the sake of the Lehigh and the country, quoting Rodney King, “…can we all get along…”

  4. This petition is nothing more than a lost of people who need to be required to take a course in how to be respectful.

  5. Wayne Baker, BA '81 on

    Let me preface my comment by saying that I am not a fan of Trump. I’d argue that taking away his honorary degree achieves nothing real. Also, the degree represents a part of, possibly entirely, the payment Trump received for his appearance that day. Is it ethically right to reach back nearly 30 years to strip a payment in a situation where fraud or criminal activity was not committed? I say no.

  6. Robert Davenport on

    Donald Trump is an egotistical human being. I assume that this was true when he was given the honorary degree. As the main speaker at the Class of 2017’s commencement noted, he showed up at Lehigh in a black helicopter with his name printed in gold on it. His name his printed or associated with many other things including posh hotels, golf courses etc. etc. The only change seems to be the personal outrage of those who are now affected by President Trump’s relatively recent actions.

    Please respect the office of the President even if the President himself refuses to do so (see Nixon and Clinton). The job is very demanding and deserves all the time the current President can give to attempt to solve the problems that exist or are created. What might President Clinton accomplished if he was not distracted by possible impeachment?

    Allow President Trump to do the best he can to do the job he was elected to do. As should be obvious, he needs help to do what is best for the country. Disagree, but stop the hate and don’t play his game. The payoff will come when President Trump is again a private citizen and history (including Lehigh graduates) will evaluate his presidency.

    • Henry F Pastuck on

      After nearly 14 hours of debate, the House of Representatives approves two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, charging him with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice. Clinton, the second president in American history to be impeached, vowed to finish his term.

    • Henry F Pastuck on

      A clip from the November 20, 1987 issue of The Brown and White announces Donald Trump will be the 1988 commencement speaker.

      bob- you seem somewhat confused. but I like the black helicopter.

  7. Thank you for including the update from the College Republicans.

    As a moderate from a rural area of the country with friends all across the policial spectrum, I’m 100% in favor of exposing students to a wide range of political views, and, generally speaking, unless someone is specifically promoting violence, I don’t think they should be barred from speaking at a school. Not everyone feels that way, but I typically advocate for erring on the side of open-mindedness and diversity of opinion.

    But this is no longer just a matter of differing political opinions. Endorsing this president has become a moral issue, not a political one. Lehigh needs to send a clear message that, politics aside, this is not who we are.

    History, as it always does, will look unkindly on those who stood by and did nothing.

  8. Everyone is entitled to have and express their opinion on our current , President Donald J. Trump. One big FACT however, not opinion ,is that he is the duly elected President of the United States. He won legally and unequivocally. To take away his Honorary degree because he doesn’t reflect Lehigh values, would show that Lehigh values do not reflect respect for the laws of this country or the opinions of 65 million people that voted for this man.
    My son goes here, unlike probably most of the signers of this petition. Most of whom have no real interest in this university, other than the fact that right now it is making the news by being Anti-Trump. I really hope President Simon and the Board do not bow to this crazy political pressure and stand firm on a decision that was made years ago when this honor was originally bestowed .

    • “To take away his Honorary degree because he doesn’t reflect Lehigh values, would show that Lehigh values do not reflect respect for the laws of this country.”

      How so? What law says that we are unable to hold a president accountable for his words and actions? I’m genuinely not understanding what rescinding the president’s honorary degree has to do with respecting the laws of the country.

    • I agree with you. This is not an appropriate way for Lehigh students or alumni to behave. When I don’t like a president, I vote against him, I don’t whine about the President, just wait, you can express yourself in 2018, until then keep an open mind. I don’t see any rockets coming from North Korea.

  9. Pingback: Thousands petition for Lehigh University to revoke Trump's honorary degree | 1010 WCSI

  10. Pingback: Thousands petition for Lehigh University to revoke Trump’s honorary degree – Influence with Aquinas

  11. The students aren’t even back at Lehigh yet for the fall semester. How can the student senate have held a meeting and voted to issue that statement? I certainly agree with what the statement says. But I can’t help but wonder if it is “fake news”.

    Similarly I wonder about how the College Republicans met and did the same thing?

    It is utterly preposterous to assume that every signer of the petition has a connection to Lehigh or knows anything about the University.

    A Google search shows that a mention of the petition has been picked up with the story repeated by many news websites.

    Being as there are a plethora of Trump haters out there, I conjecture the bulk of the signers simply spotted the story on line, went t the website, and signed the petition for laughs.

    I looked at the petition and note near the end where it says: “He does not reflect Lehigh University’s values.”

    In this, the petition does reflect a truth. My observation is that for many years Lehigh has become leftist indoctrination machine with little tolerance for anybody that deviates from its politically correct, identity politics, phony multiculturalist dogma.

    So yes, President Trump does not support those sorts of values.


    I note the petition states that it is petitioning John Simon, Lehigh’s president.

    I further understand that if the petition creator puts in the email address of the person whom is being petitioned, that the person will receive emails updating hm/her on the number of signers the petition has gained on this schedule:

    1-50 signers = email sent every signature
    50-250 signers = every 5 signatures
    250-500 signers = every 10 signatures
    500-1000 signers = every 25 signatures
    1000-5000 signers = every 100 signatures
    5000-10,000 signers = every 250 signatures
    10,000 – 100,000 signers = every 500 signatures
    > 100,000 signers = every 1000 signatures

    I note that as I write this comment the petition has receive around 20,000 signatures.

    If McCoy set it up with Simon’s email address, that means he has received around 225 emails in his inbox thus far.

    If that is the case, I’ll bet right now he has a loathing for Ms. McCoy. Even though he would be reticent to admit it.

  12. Bruce Haines '67 on

    Kelly McCoy is likely another liberal snowflake with nothing yet to show in the way of accomplishment or contribution to society. Trump got his degree for creating hundreds of thousands of jobs & building very successful businesses.

    This petition does not reflect the opinion of the majority of alumni & should be dismissed as political rhetoric.

    • Robert Davenport on


      Please define a snowflake. A former Grayson, GA mayor and local municipal judge (justice of the peace used the term. I thought it referred to people born in the north but who have moved south.

      “In Charlottesville, everyone is upset over Robert E. Lee statue. It looks like all of the snowflakes have no concept of history,” Hinkle wrote Saturday. “It is what it is. Get over it and move on. Leave history alone – those who ignore history are deemed (sic) to repeat the mistake of the past. In Richmond, VA, all of the Confederate monuments on Monument Ave. have people on horses whose asses face North. PERFECT!”

      He thankfully resigned as a judge and may now be recruiting a regiment for a second civil war.

      • August 9, 1960

        Dear Dr. Scott:

        Respecting your August 1 inquiry calling attention to my often expressed admiration for General Robert E. Lee, I would say, first, that we need to understand that at the time of the War between the States the issue of secession had remained unresolved for more than 70 years. Men of probity, character, public standing and unquestioned loyalty, both North and South, had disagreed over this issue as a matter of principle from the day our Constitution was adopted.

        General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our Nation. He believed unswervingly in the Constitutional validity of his cause which until 1865 was still an arguable question in America; he was a poised and inspiring leader, true to the high trust reposed in him by millions of his fellow citizens; he was thoughtful yet demanding of his officers and men, forbearing with captured enemies but ingenious, unrelenting and personally courageous in battle, and never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle. Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his faith in God. Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history.

        From deep conviction, I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s calibre would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. Indeed, to the degree that present-day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities, including his devotion to this land as revealed in his painstaking efforts to help heal the Nation’s wounds once the bitter struggle was over, we, in our own time of danger in a divided world, will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained.

        Such are the reasons that I proudly display the picture of this great American on my office wall.


        Dwight D. Eisenhower

  13. Deirdre Rafferty Thompson '89 on

    Why is the Lehigh Republican Club not circulating a petition to bar the rescission of President Trump’s Honorary Degree? Students, faculty and alumni must not alter history, but should reflect upon it and consider whether there is a need to have all Lehigh invited speakers exemplify “Lehigh Values”. I would suggest that Lehigh continue inviting speakers with diverse and opposing views so that the Lehigh graduating students will comprehend that our beautiful nation is filled with citizens who hold vastly different points of view yet agree to uphold the tenets of the US Constitution. This is exactly what has always made America great.

  14. President Simon and the Trustees have a sworn obligation and duty to do ONLY WHAT’S BEST FOR LEHIGH AND ITS FUTURE and not bend to the hysteria surrounding Mr. Trump’s presidency, or to pressure from non Lehigh-affiliated petitioners. The left-leaning petition is biased and should not be considered by the Trustees in any capacity except as anecdotal since it is not restricted to signers affiliated with Lehigh in some manner (students, alumni, faculty, etc.). To be fair, if the Trustees truly want to take up the matter for serious consideration, they should open up a comment process available only to Lehigh-affiliated persons and make their decisions based on those comments. Do not assume that the Brown and White editorial staff speaks for all Lehigh students, faculty and alumni. The “thought police” are everywhere, and it is important for the Trustees of our beloved Lehigh to be very mindful of the unintended consequences of revoking President Trump’s honorary degree. Shall we start applying these same standards to Lehigh graduates next, and under what circumstances? Exactly where does it stop?

    • Well said. I am ashamed that Lehigh students and alumni, who should have learned from the institution to have an open mind, support diversity of opinion, etc.. can be so biased and polarized. This petition and the feeling to “make a statement” show a very close mindedness. The University exists to foster the education of it’s students and it appears they have some work cut out for them.

  15. Jeanette Middleton on

    This petition is a peaceful protest which seems rare from this side, and I respect that. But if Lehigh does what it asks,it would send a message that Lehigh does not respect opinions other than their own. I would personally be too ashamed to admit my child attended such a university which I currently brag about. I would even feel The need to remove the Lehigh decal from my car. I would be too ashamed to have anyone see it. I also would discontinue financial support of the university as would many donors.

  16. Come on Robert, I suspect you understand quite well what Bruce means by “snowflake”.

    Wikipedia provides some clarification in case you are oblivious:

    I note that Judge Hinkle also had another statement on his Facebook page that read:

    “The nut cases tearing down monuments are equivalent to ISIS destroying history”

    What will be happening next? Will the “social justice warriors” at Lehigh try rampaging through Linderman Library to remove books by conservative authors for a book burning party? (Attention snowflakes: that is sarcasm, not a serious suggestion)

    • Maria Chappelle-Nadal finally issued a tearful apology on Sunday in a Facebook interview that streamed live.
      FOX News reported:

      Amid calls for her resignation, a Democratic state senator in Missouri on Sunday said she made a mistake for posting on Facebook Thursday that she hopes President Donald Trump is assassinated.

      State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal — who has said she isn’t resigning over the post — apologized at a press conference streamed live on the Facebook page of the Clayton Times, a St. Louis County newspaper.

      “President Trump, I apologize to you and your family,” Chappelle-Nadal said at the Wellspring Church in Ferguson, Missouri. “I also apologize to all the people in Missouri. And I also apologize to my colleagues in the Missouri legislature for the mistake that I made.”

      Chappelle-Nadal said her judge and her jury is my Lord Jesus Christ.

    • Robert Davenport on

      Thanks D E. I really was clueless about the term snowflake, but I understand the phenomenom. Your Hinkle quote has some truth to it but is inflamatory, semingly equating nut cases to ISIS. It implies that anyone who wants to move a monument means to destroy it.

      There is too much verbal road rage and too little civil discourse.

  17. what wonderful convolutions all the poor little Trump sycophants are winding their panties into to complain about a petition, such a bunch of knots-ies

  18. Bruce Haines '67 on

    John D response is typical left response where they can dish it out but can’t take the heat coming back. We are on the verge of the second civil war in this country but this one won’t be over slavery not race but rather ideology about the future direction of the Republic!

  19. Julie A Hansen on

    If Lehigh does this, they can take my degree with it.

    Lehigh use to be above this liberal college BS. I went there for an ENGINEERING education. If I had wanted to go to progressive college, I would have gone to Bryn Mawr. Lehigh should stand above this and focus on it’s worldclass engineering/business education.

    Kelly McCoy was a journalism major. Let’s not pretend she speaks for the majority of Lehigh students and alumni. At a school Lehigh’s size, I can’t imagine even a fraction of those 20,000 signatures have a connection to the University.

    I don’t like that Lehigh is in the news for this, and will take all my support for the University away if this idea is even slightly entertained by the President.

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