By taking “no action” on a petition to rescind Donald Trump’s 1988 honorary degree, Lehigh’s board of trustees has decided that Trump’s behavior, both before and after taking office, is an acceptable representation of the university.
In 2015, the board rescinded Bill Cosby’s 1987 honorary degree after more than 40 women accused him of sexual assault — the number today is around 60. In the statement about its decision, the board said Cosby’s behavior, admitted in sworn testimony, was “inconsistent with the character and high standards that honorary degree recipients are expected to exemplify.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, more than a dozen women came forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault, and three of them filed lawsuits. He claimed every single woman was lying and said he was the “victim of one of the great political smear campaigns in the history of our country.”
One of the women, Summer Zervos, subpoenaed the Trump campaign on Oct. 16, requesting “all documents concerning any woman who asserted that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately.”
The board of trustees has never addressed these claims.
We recognize that Cosby’s case set a precedent requiring sworn testimony to revoke honorary degrees, something Trump has not provided. We recognize that rescinding a sitting president’s degree isn’t something that can just “happen.”
But we also recognize the hypocrisy of the trustees’ decision. Their statement regarding Cosby applies just as equally to Trump.
Lehigh University is first and foremost an educational institution, committed to developing the future leaders of our changing global society.
On June 1, Trump announced he would be withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement under claims it was hurting the country’s economy. Historically, he has claimed the “concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” The agreement, signed by 196 nations in 2015, had nations pledge to voluntarily reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to battle climate change. Trump is currently looking for “the right conditions” to remain in the agreement.
We affirm the inherent dignity in all of us, and we maintain an inclusive and equitable community.
On July 26, Trump unofficially announced over Twitter that transgender military troops would no longer be allowed to serve “in any capacity.” One month later, he officially signed a directive disallowing transgender military members. The directive is predicted to cost at least 100 times more than the current cost of transition-related care because of recruiting and retraining.
We recognize and celebrate the richness contributed to our lives by our diverse community.
On June 16, 2015, Trump announced he would be running for a presidential bid. Generalizing 18 percent of the U.S. population, he said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
We promote mutual understanding among the members of our community.
On April 30, Trump skipped the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, an annual tradition where the press and members of the administration exchange jokes at each others’ expense. As of Oct. 20, the president of the United States has insulted 382 people, places or things over Twitter. Examples include Chuck “Sleepy Eyes” Todd, Lyin’ Ted Cruz and Kim “Little Rocket Man” Jung-Un.
We confront and reject discrimination in all its forms, including that based on age, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economics, veteran status, or any differences that have been excuses for misunderstanding, dissension, or hatred.
On Aug. 12, Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old protester, was killed by alt-right member James Fields after he drove a Dodge Challenger into the crowd. Three days later, Trump responded to violence at white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally by saying, “There is blame on both sides.” Republican Sen. John McCain said, “There is no moral equivalency between racists and Americans standing up to defy hate and bigotry.”
We affirm academic freedom within our community and uphold our commitment to the highest standards of respect, civility, courtesy, and sensitivity toward every individual.
On Oct. 17, Trump called the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four soldiers stationed in Niger who were killed in a deadly ambush. He forgot Johnson’s name during the call and told Myeshia Johnson, “He knew what he signed up for, but it still hurts anyway.”
We recognize each person’s right to think and speak as dictated by personal belief and to respectfully disagree with or counter another’s point of view.
On Aug. 29, 2016, Trump spoke out against former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling in protest during the national anthem, saying, “Kaepernick should find another country.” Throughout the next year, various players knelt in solidarity with Kaepernick. At a rally in Alabama on Sept. 22, Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”
We promote open expression of our individuality and our differences within the bounds of University policies.
On June 7, 2016, Trump defended his claim that Gonzalo Curiel, a judge of Mexican heritage, was biased in overseeing a fraud cause regarding Trump University. Curiel, born in Indiana to immigrant parents, spent 17 years as a California prosecutor working to bring down Mexican drug cartels. Lawyers describe his reputation as, “‘completely fair’, highly skilled and legally ‘sophisticated.’”
We acknowledge each person’s obligation to the community of which we have chosen to be a part.
Nearly every day, Trump disparages members of the press for being a part of the “fake news media,” a term he claims to have invented. On May 12, he floated the idea of canceling daily press briefings for White House correspondents. The press exists as the fourth estate, responsible for acting as a check and balance on government.
We take pride in building and maintaining a culture that is founded on these principles of unity and respect.
On Oct. 7, 2016, a video released by The Washington Post showed Trump and television host Billy Bush having a conversation about approaching women in 2005. Comments included, “I moved on her like a bitch,” “Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” and “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
The Brown and White editorial board condemns the board of trustees’ decision to take “no action.” We encourage a response from the trustees explaining the reasons behind its decision.