“Lehigh bestows honorary degrees to recognize exceptionally accomplished individuals who epitomize the integrity, intelligence and creativity of Lehigh degree recipients. These special degrees bring honor to the institution and to the recipient.”
This statement was made in an article published on Lehigh’s website by Jesus Salas, who chaired the honorary degree committee in 2015.
In 1988, Donald Trump was awarded an honorary degree by the university. In his time as president of the United States, however, Trump’s actions have caused some members of the Lehigh community to question whether he is fit to hold such an honor.
In mid-August, Lehigh alumna Kelly McCoy, ’17, started a change.org petition to rescind Donald Trump’s honorary degree. This petition collected more than 30,000 signatures within about a week of its creation.
McCoy wrote in her petition that “our current values as a university stand against everything Donald Trump represents.” McCoy and the supporters of this petition do not believe Trump reflects Lehigh’s values as outlined in the Principles of our Equitable Community.
Lehigh has rescinded honorary degrees before. In 2015, the board of trustees voted to rescind comedian Bill Cosby’s honorary degree after sexual assault accusations. At that time, Lehigh said in a statement that Cosby’s behavior was “inconsistent with the character and high standards” expected of honorees. Cosby has yet to be convicted of the accusations.
Trump, too, has had sexual assault allegations leveled against him but does not face any formal charges.
Last week, The Brown and White surveyed 786 members of the Lehigh community — including students, staff, faculty, parents and alumni — about their opinions concerning the rescission of honorary degrees from Lehigh. Each respondent was presented with a set of questions about either Trump or Cosby. The questions about the two men were separated in an effort to collect honest responses about the individual cases.
Donald Trump also holds honorary degrees from Liberty University and Wagner College. Robert Gordon University in Scotland revoked Trump’s honorary degree in 2015.
With the decision about rescinding Trump’s honorary degree swiftly approaching, the Lehigh community has expressed contrasting opinions regarding the issue and what the decision would mean to the university.
The board of trustees will vote on this matter during its meeting later this week.
Additional reporting by managing editor Klaudia Jazwinska.