Donald Trump speaks at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. Lehigh University's board of trustees reaffirmed its decision to take "no action" on Trump's honorary degree from Lehigh on March 2. (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)

Board of trustees reaffirms decision to take ‘no action’ on Trump’s honorary degree

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Lehigh’s board of trustees reaffirmed its prior decision to take “no action” regarding President Donald Trump’s honorary degree from the university in its meeting on March 2.

“The members of the board are committed to doing what is in the best interests of the University as a whole,” the board said in a statement, “including most especially demonstrating openness to and respect for the broad views and perspectives of our many University constituencies.”

In its statement, the board said it reaffirms its core mission of educating students from around the globe to become future leaders of society.

The decision counteracts the opinion of Lehigh faculty, who earlier this week voted overwhelmingly in support of recision.

Doug Mahony, the chair of the faculty steering committee, said while he was not surprised with the decision, he appreciated the board’s quick response to the motion.

“I feel that this is no way was a wasted effort,” he said. “It gave the faculty an opportunity to convey to the administration and to the board in particular that there’s a strong sense among the faculty… to have that degree revoked.

Mahony said it is the board’s responsibility to look out for and take into consideration the entire Lehigh community.

“When (board members) speak, they’re speaking from a much broader perspective,” he said. “The faculty spoke from their perspective. And I think the board took that into consideration, but balanced that against what they feel are the needs of the university as a whole.”

Mahony emphasized, however, the dismay of those who supported the recision.

“While perhaps not unexpected,” he said, “I believe that this decision will come as a great disappointment to a majority of our faculty.”

Anne Meltzer, a professor of earth and environmental science who played a role in creating the faculty motion, said in an email that the statement released by the board of trustees does not address the central element of the motion, that numerous documented statements by Trump are inconsistent with Lehigh’s core values.

“By not addressing this core question in the statement released on Friday, is the board saying these statements are consistent with Lehigh’s values or are they saying the statements are not sexists, racist, and more?” Meltzer wrote in an email.

Meltzer said the board of trustees must explain how the statements accompanying the motion square with Lehigh’s institutional values.

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49 Comments

  1. The board acted in the best short term interest of the school. They should wait when he is out of office avoiding retaliations and negative publicity. It is not his view or perspectives the reason to remove the honor but his actions against women, blacks, Hispanics, others, his lack of decency and respect for the position he holds

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      How did you become such a terrified person? Unless you’re a noncitizen, I bet I’m a whole lot more vulnerable than you are, and I’m totally fine with the idea of saying “nope, sorry.”

    • So this is the first President to ever have a woman run their campaign and women play important roles in his business. In addition, Trump has never shown disrespect to law abiding blacks or Hispanics and quite frankly just fulfilled a campaign promise to apply tarriffs to revive manufacturing which have typically given black and minorities an opportunity to achieve middle class status in the inner cities. He is for charter schools so that minorities have an opportunity for a better education.

      Yes Trump wants to control our borders to protect American citizens from drugs, terror, and to preserve jobs for law abiding tax paying Americans vs. illegal immigrants being paid under the table and send the money back home. Finally, Trump is not your typical politician that rides the middle of the road on everything but rather takes action based upon his instincts that got him rightfully elected in our democratic republic.

      Congratulations to the Lehigh Board of Trustees who has a pulse on its alumni and not succumbing to the anarchists among their faculty and student body influenced by these liberals.

      • Amy Charles '89 on

        Thank you, Patriot. I’ll be reposting your comment to College Confidential and other venues so that prospective students can get a sense of how the alumni money feels.

        • Well said, Patriot2. Don’t forget about the socialists and communists that are trying to take down this country from within.

          Amy mentioned that she works for a university, so you can find that one out and reciprocate the ‘love’. Some good ol’ quid pro quo

        • In all seriousness though, Amy, I really hope you find peace in your heart soon. I’m not sure what happened while you spent time at Lehigh or how you might have been wronged. I’m not sure if you have bought into some narrative that somebody has spoken into your life or what the circumstances are, but not everyone is out to get you and not all conservatives are horrible people. We have a belief in a limited government that protects its people from threats domestic and foreign. Most of us believe in fiscal responsibility (which neither side of government seems to be able to do) and also Judaeo-Christian values that our nation was founded upon, although many times we mess that up too, since all of mankind is broken. I know my time in college was caught up in the wrong things 20 years ago, but I can’t change the past, so I have to move forward and embrace the forgiveness that can only come through grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

      • Lehigh Graduate on

        Thank you Patriot2. I agree that the board once again acted reasonably and responsibly.

        The faculty’s vote only serves to bully students into keeping quiet if their views don’t match those of their professors. As Voltaire said, the most important speech is that with which one doesn’t agree.

        Let’s hope that after tabling this issue so many times, the board can move on to more important decisions.

        • Lehigh Grad with the ability to see reason on

          your comment is logically flawed. IF the faculty vote serves to bully students, THEN does not the board vote serve to bully the faculty? In what way does the faculty expressing their opinion bully students? Is that not their right to free speech?

  2. Melissa Eydenberg on

    No alumni should donate until the Board honors the wishes of the faculty, alumni, and students.

    • Melissa, plenty of alumni support the correct decision of the Board. So do plenty of students. It is too bad leftists have to politicize and sow division everywhere, including among Lehigh alumi

      • G. Lehigh Alum on

        There are also plenty of us that won’t donate, have rescinded pledged donations, and have told the Board of Trustees as much.

  3. His statements have directly violated our principles of equitable community! How is there not reason to rescind the honorary degree?

  4. Board showed wisdom. Now the faculty can get back to teaching and avoid pushing their views on too their students.

  5. Good for the Board in standing tall against a group of union employees. Our President is implementing the policies he ran on & was elected to implement—like today’s tariffs on steel & aluminum.

      • They may as well be a union because they all think alike and get tenure which is a union like mentality. There needs to be political diversity in the Lehigh faculty and especially in the communist political science department.

        • they don’t agree with you, so you just assume mass mentality. excellent critical thinking skills there. have a tide pod.

  6. Thank you Lehigh Board of Trustees. What we should all remember is that politics cannot and should not dictate education. I vehemently disagree with many but would never revoke an honorary degree. To do so would mean that I am unwilling and intolerant to anything I disagree with, and that is not the Lehigh way. As a dedicated alumni all I want for Lehigh and it’s family is to have an open discourse and exchange of all opinions. To shut down anyone or revoke their degree on merits not discussed by the community as a whole is against everything our Constitution represents. Kudos to the Board for knowing that Lehigh is a far larger community than the faculty and that we do not allow one sector of our community define what happened 30 years ago. I suggest the faculty engage those who disagree with them and use it as a teaching moment. Lehigh always!

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      What? Of course politics dictates education. Politics bounds and dictates most things. (You live in *Chicago*, ffs, you know this every time you go outside.) That’s why anyone’s exercised about all this. Come to think of it, I just had a conversation a couple of weeks ago with a C&EN reporter about politics and science, and we were talking about this midcentury notion of the apolitical scientist and how this is breaking down as young, better-connected, politically-informed people enter science. I mean consider why Lehigh exists in the first place: industrialist needs engineers. Industrialist shall have engineers! Why? Politics. Now consider why those engineers aren’t all named Robert Weatherby and things like that anymore. More politics. Why have the curricula changed? More politics. I was back at Lehigh a year or so ago, stopped in on an old prof, and the first thing he wanted to talk about was mandatory transgender training programs, wanted to know which side I was on, looking for allies.

      Politics, politics, politics.

      Why did DT have an honorary degree in the first place? Masses and masses of gold electroplating and the fond hope, as so many others have had, that he might cut a slice for Lehigh. Why, you think it was his scholarly chops?

      Damn, you all, how many of you managed to read entire books while you were at Lehigh? Show of hands.

      Also, Dana, you’re not plural; you’re alumna, not alumni. Its, not it’s. Intolerant of, not intolerant to. And the Constitution has nothing to do with this. I totally should’ve gone to a better school.

  7. Good job Board. But you should have never had to make this decision.

    The professors of Lehigh have unfortunately confirmed what every conservative student already knew – the vast majority of their professors are liberal and do not tolerate an opposing point of view. It always amazes me, reinforced by comments already posted here and by the professors themselves, that freedom of expression is tolerated by liberals so long as its liberal expression. If you are conservative or dare oppose their views, you are subject to name calling, being shouted down or having a degree revoked.

    As has been stated, most politicians have flaws. Our current President is no different. President Clinton received oral sex from a 21 year old intern in the Oval Office and perjured himself which led to his being disbarred as an attorney and being impeached. But President Clinton had many good policies. President Trump sometimes conducts himself in ways I don’t support but he ran on a platform that won him the Presidency (and the state of Pennsylvania). The professors may not like his policies or him as a person but how is that justification for revoking his honorary degree?

    This immature and intolerant behavior by the faculty is exactly what conservative students fear in the classroom at Lehigh and across America. If you espouse a policy or position that a Lehigh professor doesn’t like, Lehigh’s professors just showed every conservative student they are prepared to take action. And that is real power because they decide what GRADE the students will receive and that one-sided power is tyranny.

    Notice to Lehigh Students: Trump gets to keep his diploma but the professors are now really upset so if you are in favor of enforcing our border, FAIR Trade agreements, lowering our corporate tax rate to a level which is in line with the rest of the developed world or regulatory reform, you better not breathe a word of it because they have power over you.

    Suggestion to the Board: There is a policy against Harassment however the “protected characteristics” in section 1.1 of the Harassment Policy exclude political beliefs (“protected characteristics” in section 1.1 are age, color, disability, gender identity or expression, genetic information, marital status, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or veteran status). I propose that the Board amend Section 1.1 to include political expression. How can it be excluded when every conservative student is subject to unwelcome statements or other conduct that “offends, demeans, harasses, or intimidates.” (Section 2.1.1 of the Harassment Policy) Under this policy, if political views were included as a protected characteristic, then students could have a remedy against their professors which includes under Section 7.1 “Termination of employment of University employees”.

    I fear this is the only way to create an open environment where students can express their views without fear of retribution. Only with a full expression of views will there be a true learning environment. Create a level playing field in the classroom where there are real consequences if the professors intimidate into silence those that voice support of a policy that the professors don’t like. Only then will there be free speech and learning at Lehigh!!

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      You should make sure there’s something explicit in there about Christmas and misandry. I’m leaving something out…oh, of course, racism against white people and discrimination against cisgendered heterosexuals. Can’t be having that. Anyway, make sure you get all those bases covered in writing.

    • Boudinot Keith on

      we eagerly await any proof at all about your assertions. any. at. all. otherwise we will all assume it is more republican playing the martyr

      • More than one professor has made an uncalled for derogatory anti republican statement during class. While I don’t think professors intend to be bullies, their remarks do come across as harassing at times. It would be nice to have more balanced viewpoints.

  8. I am posting again because it seems my comment to this article was not posted. Thank you Board of Trustees for understanding the Lehigh community is far larger than the faculty. What must be understood that is no matter the politics or personal feelings the decision to revoke a degree, honorary or otherwise, may not be made by one group or be based on politics. That Is not the Lehigh way. I would never ask my school to revoke the degree of someone I disagree with because to do that would mean that I disrespect why they were chosen at the time. Ultimately it is our responsibility to listen to all views no matter how disagreeable. Across life and even within our Lehigh community there will be people who we disagree with but it is my job to listen and learn from those who I oppose and respect that as well. The Board showed today that they understand that Lehigh is a family and you must listen to all. I would never revoke a degree of someone I dislike or oppose and I would welcome a discussion with the faculty if they Care to listen to someone that disagrees with their position. This is a teaching moment for discourse and grace.

    • Erin McClain ‘07 on

      I read your post yesterday and thought it was very well said – and I continue to agree with your commentary!

  9. This whole thing is nonsense. Love or hate Trump, Lehigh should be preparing its students to succeed in the world. This is a distraction to that mission. The board did the right thing. Now maybe they should start to vote on removing professors that are contributing to the decisiveness in this country. Teach the kids and get out of politics.

  10. Amy Charles '89 on

    Jessica and Klaudia: was the vote unanimous? I’m curious how it broke along demographic lines. Only 10 of the 31 are women; so far I’m not seeing that it’s a festival of diversity racially, either.

    • Who cares if the vote was unanimous and quite frankly it is none of your business what the racial or gender ratio is as none of that is relevant to the issue at hand unless you want to turn this into a political decision. I would say the composition of the Lehigh Board of Trustees likely mirrors the composition of its living alumni.

      • Amy Charles '89 on

        Yeah, I don’t know about that: money seems to be vastly overrepresented, along with its usual keepers. On the roster of 31 we have reps from PwC, Circle Wealth Mgmt, Oaktree Capital Mgmt, Chase, Bain, Fidelity, Revere Bank, Towers Watson, Perella Weinberg, Cornerstone Capital, a lawyer specializing in bankruptcy restructuring, Douglas Lane, Accenture, investment ofcr for Spiekman Properties, WR Capital, and a private-equity real estate guy. Plus assorted mgmt consultants and real-estate people. I get that part of the function of the board is to haul in the dough, and it helps to know people with dough if you’re doing that, but given the size of the pile Lehigh’s sitting on and its COA this doesn’t seem like an emergency.

        Point is that money and its keepers are going to represent money and its keepers: you don’t get those jobs if you don’t play ball that way. Well, I see a few people to get in touch with there, and see if maybe they’ll shed some light on the conversation that went on.

        • Sounds like a group of very successful people Amy. I suppose you would prefer unsuccessful people to represent Lehigh & maybe several homeless people to provide maximum diversity. The job of the board is to insure the financial viability of the University & insure that the President is driving the value of a Lehigh degree. You clearly haven’t gotten over your failed woman candidate’s loss over a year ago.

  11. Current Student on

    Glad to see the Board can look past some of President Trump’s shortcomings and the left biases of the University and make the correct decision in the end.

  12. Erin McClain ‘07 on

    I am very glad we did not dishonor the president of our country. As flippant and offensive as many of his remarks may be, our democracy elected him to a position of power, and our collective Lehigh voice is worth listening to… if we can share it in an impactful way.

    I would be interested in hearing the diverse views of our Lehigh community on gun control, especially assault rifles. (Weapons that are being so easily obtained. With no sight of well-regulated militias.) It seems that Trump is open to taking meaningful action towards gun control reform. As an honorary alum, perhaps he would listen to a thoughtful appeal from the Lehigh community.

    There are no easy answers when it comes to the topics the president deals with everyday – interpreting the constitution, protecting its citizens – and doing so within a tangled web of influences. Revoking an honorary degree would leave our voice on important issues – – to fall on deaf ears. Instead, we could unite as a bipartisan voice on an important issue, such as gun control. Alumni from diverse political backgrounds, might get behind a motion like that. I know I would.

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