Lehigh faculty members voted in favor of an electronic vote on the motion to rescind President Donald Trump's honorary degree on Feb. 12. in Sinclair Auditorium. The electronic vote will remain open for seven days. (Courtesy of Gage Skidmore)

University faculty agree to vote on motion to revoke Trump’s degree


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of sociology, said the board of trustees implemented its own process to revoke honorary degrees when its members rescinded Bill Cosby’s degree two years ago.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.”

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  1. Too late. You already empowered and enabled him in part.

    Next time, if there is a next time, don’t play so cutsie with reality. Honorary degree indeed.

    • I’m not sure I follow or agree with you that the faculty have empowered and enabled Donald Trump. The vast majority of current faculty members were not on faculty thirty years ago and would not have participated on the Faculty Committee on Honorary Degrees that recommended to the Board of Trustees to award Donald Trump an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1988. Additionally, while his record was less than stellar in 1988, it’s only been since the campaign (or perhaps Obama’s presidency) that Donald Trump has ratcheted up his rhetoric and behavior and…how should I say…come out of his shell to show his truest colors.

      • Amy Charles '89 on

        No, he’s pretty much been the same guy all along. My recollection is that people came back from commencement saying that he’d told them that immigrants wanted to take their jobs and that “the gays” were going to give them AIDS. The excerpt in the Epitome has him doing his paranoiac thing, talking about being negative in some weird proactive way and how America (on the verge of winning the Cold War) was being laughed at and disrespected abroad. And the mob ties were no secret. I guess the main thing that’s changed is that instead of coke being an implicit part of the picture, it’s McDonald’s. And the mobsters speak Russian these days.

        I also don’t know that Lehigh’s really changed that much. The reason Lehigh was falling all over itself to bring him in, in the ’80s, was that he had money plastered all over him. What could be better? Success! Hire me! In the intervening years, Lehigh’s built the obligatory business palace and ratcheted up the entrepreneurism talk, and I’m not at all convinced that a similar new guy with a similar stupid black Sikorski and gold-plated tower would fail to impress a great big chunk of Lehigh.

        • Robert Davenport on

          “No, he’s pretty much been the same guy all along.” I agree, the only thing that has changed is the arena and the size of the crowd. Not being a politician he is unable to lie to people and have them like him. Like the boy who cried wolf, few believe him even when he is truthful.

  2. May I suggest that the faculty involved , if not tenured, be asked to resign. When the members of the faculty can be involved in discussing the massive corruption involved in the last election, perhaps they might make a better social statement.

    • Ex-national security adviser Susan Rice sent an “unusual email” to herself the day President Trump was sworn in to office documenting former President Barack Obama’s guidance at a high-level meeting about how law enforcement should investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, two Republican senators said Monday.

      According to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Sen. Lindsey Graham, the partially unclassified email was sent by Rice on Jan. 20, 2017 — and appears to document a Jan. 5 meeting that included Obama, then-FBI Director James Comey, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, then-Vice President Joe Biden and Rice.

    • How about this for a standard: If you admit to felonious behavior, under oath, for an action that occurred before your degree was given, you may lose that honorary degree. If on the other hand if 30 years after receiving an honorary degree you are duly elected to public office and not everyone agrees with your views or style you get to keep it.

    • Current Student on

      As a student, I’m happy the faculty are stepping up and supporting us. Too frequently our voices and opinions aren’t heard. It’s disappointing that we’re constantly silenced when bitter alumni threaten to withdraw donations. Our voices have value too.

      • Amy Charles '89 on

        I don’t think you realize how much power you have or how easily a university scares. Start talking loud about this on college-app sites and social media and it’ll change Lehigh’s applicant pool pretty significantly. Universities live and die not just by donations but by stats and rankings. The marketing people will freak.

        You’d probably have some effect on donations and donor cultivation, too. Note that the mummies in here harrumphing for Trump are almost all from the 70s and earlier – white Boomer men who went to Lehigh when it was all men. Development works hard to cultivate the next generation — mine — which isn’t nearly as right-wing, and millennials, for whom this is a no-brainer. We’re not so anxious to hand money to people that strong on standing by Trump.

        It’s like Arlo Guthrie said — you gotta sing loud if you want to end war ‘n stuff. Or just to detach your school name from the walking Superfund site who’s busy blowing up your future.

        • Robert Davenport on

          Amy Charles: “It’s like Arlo Guthrie said — you gotta sing loud if you want to end war ‘n stuff. Or just to detach your school name from the walking Superfund site who’s busy blowing up your future.”

          Don’t use your voice to end war, use your brain. Use Trump to improve things by appealing to his ego. He is in a position to make things better. Trick him into doing good. Be creative not antagonistic.

          • Amy Charles '89 on

            Remember that part about how he’s the same guy he was?

            He’s not going to be doing any good, nor is he interested in it. And it’s not worth the candle to play games. There’s a journalist named Masha Gessen who got there a year ahead of you, btw: she went freaking out in the NYRB in Nov 2016 because, like Ayn Rand once upon a time, Russia scarred her, and she’s prone to thinking that the world is Russia. Things aren’t quite the same here. But she was right when she said that your idea is predicated on the notion of rational actors, on the ability to work mechanisms that actually exist. There is no such predictability here; that’s the sad, empty guy’s hallmark. Endless chaos, greed, and fear.

            But some people have to try. There’s a long list of criminals and liars who’ve been through the WH revolving door who thought they could make a go of it, too. CEOs who joined his various boards in similar hopes. I watched dim, destructive sad sacks in this state prostitute themselves for him for a year and a half, play the flattery game, thinking they’d get paid. They didn’t get paid. Personally, I think the only way to work the guy at all is to have something serious on him, to have the power to shut him down. And even then I wouldn’t be too sure of coming out a winner.

            I see you want him to be a better guy than he is, that you don’t want to be thinking such things about anyone. But he’s not a better guy. This isn’t even normal Hill lunacy (and the Hill attracts some spectacular wackos; I know, I worked with them). The WH is now just an outpost of someone else’s mob. Does it look weird, yeah, it looks weird. We’re not used to this. *They’re* not used to this. But that’s what we’ve got now, and unless there’s a whole lot of noise about electoral matters, the November elections are only going to hammer it in more solidly.

            All of which is far afield from the honorary-degree bit.

            May I suggest being more supportive of the students and more recent grads when they come out swinging? Because if anyone’s going to save this place, it’s going to be them.

            • Robert Davenport on

              Yea, I’m an optimist. I agree with what you are saying. I refused to vote for Hillary and wouldn’t lower myself to vote for our current President. I prayed because I knew my vote wasn’t going to a winner. There are more prayers being said for our government than I have ever seen before.

              I also know seemingly reasonable people who voted for Mr. Trump and continue to be happy with it. If differing opinions turn to warfare, we all lose.

              I don’t think Lehigh students need my support in that way, I do have confidence in their future. I would suggest that they listen to the commencement address from class of 2017 for support and encouragement.

      • Robert Davenport on

        Current Student:”It’s disappointing that we’re constantly silenced when bitter alumni threaten to withdraw donations. Our voices have value too.” You are not silenced by bitter alumni, you’re not silenced by alumni who disagree with you. The Brown and White (B&W) provides an outlet for you. The university has changed in response to students, changes that you see and experience but you may not be aware of. When you graduate you will probably be close to 100% (possibly 90%+ now) in control of your life; but you are not in control of the university. Most alumni don’t control the university either.

        I don’t necessarily agree with students, faculty, administration or alumni. You like me might or might not be ignored but you are not silenced. Do what you can to help others to make our world a better place

    • Not My President on

      They’re the Board of Trustees, not the Board of Advisers. And it wasn’t just the students, it was 30,998 students, alumni, faculty, staff, friends, and family of Lehigh University. I know numbers hurt you Trump supporters. Popular vote. Crowd size. Net worth. There is no such thing as alternative facts, snowflake.

      • As a current student, I think the faulty is deplorable. They should all donate 100% of disposable income to low-income communities if they want to make an impact. Before they do that, i don’t give a heck about what they say.

        • Not My President on

          What does motioning for revoking Donald Trump’s degrees have anything to do with supporting the Bethlehem community?! Might I remind you that the Eric Trump Foundation funneled $100,000 in donations meant for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital into revenue for the Trump Organization. The Donald J. Trump Foundation admitted to “self-dealing” on its 2015 tax filings. In 1973, the U.S. Department of Justice sued Trump Management, Fred Trump, and Donald Trump for discriminatory housing practices against black prospective tenants, in which Trump lamented that the government was trying to force him to rent to “welfare recipients.” If anyone should be ashamed of the way in which they support the community, it should be the Trump family and their supporters.

          The Lehigh faculty are incredibly committed to helping the community grow and develop, especially in South Bethlehem. I don’t know you so I don’t want to make any assumptions about your involvement with or advocacy for the local community, but much of the Lehigh student population looks down on South Bethlehem as “Sketch-lehem” and refers to its residents and their off-campus neighbors as “townies.” There is such little respect by the students for the community that it would be laughable if it weren’t so, well, deplorable.

  3. Robert Davenport on

    I suggest the the vote by taken by paper ballot, to protect against hacking, and forwarded to a mathematics professor at Moravian to insure an accurate and impartial tally of the yeas or nays. Don’t tell the professor the nature of the motion.

    If the motion to rescind Mr. Trumps honorary degree is defeated I hope that there is a future motion to reinstate the honorary degree to Mr. Cosby in the hope that it would be “easier” to explain to students.

    • Do you really think that Donald Trump gives a rat’s ass about an honorary degree from Lehigh? Lehigh should be honored that someone with a Lehigh degree of any kind is the duly elected President of this country. No other Lehigh Grad has ever even been elected
      Senator let alone President.

      Lehigh faculty don’t speak for the University & are essentially nothing more than overpaid union employees with extended vacation benefits & tenure protecting them from being canned.

      Get a life & recognize you lost the last election fair & square just like your guy Obama won fair & square. Move on!!

      • Amen brother. As a real American, I am prod that Trump has a degree here.

        Also it’s funny watching the left on campus explode in anger at the mere thought of Trump having an honorary degree.

      • It’s not about whether Trump would give “a rat’s ass” (charming, by the way) whether he had or did not have an honorary degree from Lehigh. It’s about who the Lehigh community—and by that I mean the students, alumni, faculty, and staff—chooses to honor and hold up as an example of our values and what we want Lehigh University to represent. If the community were to overwhelmingly say they want Donald Trump to keep his degree, then I’ll put my politics and personal feelings aside to support that decision because that’s the community’s consensus, but that isn’t the case. I’d say the same thing about any individual—elected official or otherwise. As @AsaPackersGhost tweeted, “At the end of the day, it’s a piece of paper. But at the end of our days, what we honor is a measure of our character.”

        And by the way, tenure exists for this exact reason: to protect faculty against being “canned” for speaking out against the loudest voices in the room.

  4. The fact that the faculty of Lehigh would consider revoking a sitting President’s honorary degree is disturbing on many levels. The “judgements” regarding President Trump’s statements by members of the faculty come from a very one-sided and myopic point of view. It may come as a surprise to them, but many minorities do not view Trump as racist, many Muslims do not believe he is Islamophobic, and many women do not believe he is sexist. Many even believe that President Trump is making progress in helping their individual groups. For Lehigh to consider taking this action goes against the core principle for which it (supposedly) stands: that differences of opinion, and differences between all individuals should not only be tolerated, they should be respected.

    To the Professor who cannot explain to his students the differences between the Bill Cosby situation and President Trump, surely, you’re joking. Bill Cosby DRUGGED and SEXUALLY ASSAULTED many, many women. This was PROVEN, as mounds of evidence came to light in a pesky little thing called a trial. In a court of law. P. Trump sometimes says/does things that some may consider offensive. Lehigh students are extremely intelligent young adults. I think they’ll get it.

    This move on behalf of the faculty is one that is solely intended to embarrass and diminish our President. In addition, just as President Obama was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize that the Nobel panel now admits was a mistake, this motion is also premature. We have had several Presidents (and candidates) that were not the best people. They were liars, cheaters, adulterers, and accused rapists. And somehow they continue to be admired to this day by some (and have kept their honorary degrees.) President Trump is one year into his Presidency. We do not yet know if his accomplishments will outweigh his shortcomings. But, HISTORY should be the judge, not a group of grandstanding faculty members.

    It will not reflect well on the University if it choses to insert itself into the deteriorating political climate. In a world where statements are now taken out of context, words are twisted in ways they are not meant, and people are deeply offended by small things, we are headed down a slippery slope. I hope all of the Lehigh faculty members are living up to the “standards” they are now setting, and THEIR words (past or present) are never taken as offensive, disrespectful, intolerant, etc. You, too will be judged accordingly. Not to mention, retroactively. This is the world you will be complicit in helping to shape.

    • As a past donor, I would like to inform this group that they have jeopardized a large portion of their future donations. I will not be donating anything to the university in the future and there are probably an extremely large number of “deplorables” who feel the same way. You have shot yourself in the foot just for the sake of speaking out. Good luck with next year’s budget and in all the following years. You’ll need it.

      • Robert Davenport on


        I think that the Lehigh University Mission Statement is enough for me to continue donating to Lehigh. If all the goals had been accomplished, you had recently died and gone to heaven.

        I hope people are open to learning from the discussions not only how polarized things seem to be but what solutions may exist. Closed minds will lead to a civil war. Would Lafayette be pleased or do they have similar situations?

        • Robert Davenport on

          I looked at The Lafayette, Pennsylvania’s oldest student newspaper.

          Marc says:
          October 23, 2017 at 9:16 am
          Roamin Millennial who had a speech at your college few weeks back uploaded a video of the even and she made a response to the students attending: https://youtu.be/mFnEUxBfJlU

          People attending, were supper disrespectful, ignorant and acted like spoiled brats. I would feel ashamed of having any connections to them. They didn’t act like academic citizens, they didn’t act the way a college student should act.

          I’m thinking the behavior at Lehigh would have been similar.

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