Letter to the editor: Trustees place money over honor


As a parent of three graduates of Lehigh University — class of 2010, 2012 & 2015 and graduate class of 2011 — I join with my kids in being disheartened and deeply exasperated by the decision of the board of trustees to ignore the pleas of the faculty and students to rescind Donald Trump’s honorary degree bestowed by the university in 1988.

The trustees’ failure to abide by the position and demands of faculty and students is in and of itself shameful, but the refusal to offer justification for their failure to rescind Trump’s honorary degree is simply unacceptable. Refusing to stand up for what is right is not “demonstrating openness to and the respect for the broad views and perspectives of our many university constituencies,” as claimed by the trustees in their diversionary statement.

Let us all recognize that Lehigh proudly proclaims “integrity and honesty” as its first two core values. For over 150 years, Lehigh has affirmed the inherent dignity in all of us and has confronted and rejected discrimination in all its forms, including that based on age, color, disability, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, race, religion and sexual orientation. Putting aside political leaning, there is no doubt that Donald Trump, as a man, has displayed the antithesis of these core values. Mr. Trump’s statements, tweets and actions can only be denied and ignored by those who are intellectually dishonest.

So why have Lehigh’s trustees turned away from honor and integrity? What are the “interests of the university as a whole,” that the trustees offer as an excuse for not upholding Lehigh’s core values? It’s clear that the trustees believe that rescinding the honorary degree of Donald Trump is too risky to its bottom line. However, putting money ahead of values is shortsighted. When a university fails to stand up for what is right, it sends a regrettable message to its past, current and future students and unfortunately to the rest of the country.

Kenneth Wiesen
Father of three (Jordan Wiesen, ’10 ’11G, Brittany Wiesen, ’12, and Samantha Wiesen, ’15)

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  1. Mr. Weisen, nice letter. I especially liked the “Putting aside political leaning”… Let’s be real, this is all politics. I am sure you are “disheartened and deeply exasperated by the decision of the board of trustees to ignore the pleas of the faculty and students.” What about the students that support Trump? What about the alumni that support Trump? Did the Board ignore them?

    Are you equally “exasperated” that the liberal professors at all the colleges that have given Bill Clinton aren’t asking for the Boards to revoke his honorary degree (Michigan, City College of New York, Pace University, Tulane etc) even though he received oral sex from a 21 year old intern, perjured himself about it and was disbarred for perjury and was impeached. Are you exasperated that the me too movement isn’t protesting at these schools demanding action against a predator accused of rape and several sexual advances. Or protesting Hillary who was more interested in her own rise to power and attacking woman victims of Bill when they came forward instead of calling out a predator of woman.

    It’s all politics Mr. Weisen, including your letter. The Board was right to stay out of politics – you alienate half of your constituents. Nice attempt trying to sound apolitical.

  2. william james on

    If you are this concerned with virtue signalling over a meaningless symbolic degree given long ago to the current POTUS, may I suggest you find something that actually matters to focus on

  3. Clearly a helicopter parent of 3 snowflakes that haven’t gotten over their election defeat. Trump is making it happen so fast that the liberals & establishment republicans can’t keep up. Putting tariffs on steel & aluminum a brilliant move to preserve good paying jobs for American minority employees!! Keep your political views away from trying to influence the Board

  4. Robert Davenport on

    Trump said that he was delivering a message of hope to the students, since there is room for new graduates to improve the situation. “I think over a period of four to six years, this country is going to get smarter. Let Murray Goodman (the Lehigh alumnus for whom Lehigh’s Saucon campus is named) negotiate – not people who don’t know what they’re doing.”

    In his introduction, Likins said Trump was a “symbol of our age – all the daring and energy that the word tycoon conjures up. His boldness of vision and the splendor of his buildings . . . are like a designer label on the skyline of New York.”

    This sounds very familiar even 30 years after the commencement address of 1988. Many who voted for President Trump bought into “His boldness of vision and the splendor of his buildings.” Many who voted for President Trump rejected the vision and actions of Ms. Clinton. It was a poor choice the American people were given.

    .Listen to Stephanie Ruhle’s 2017 Lehigh Commencement Address:


    I hope that Mr. Wiesen and his daughters can work to make America better. Try to be good.

    • I was at the 2017 commencement and had the misfortune of sitting through Stephanie Ruhle’s commencement address in the pouring rain. Some of her speech was relevant and inspiring, but, along with many other conservative parents who had just paid a fortune over four years and were there to celebrate the achievements of their children and their peers, I was not happy that she dragged politics into her address with her anti-Trump views. I think one can safely conclude, based on the responses of many (most) commentators on these boards, that it is unwise for Lehigh to take political stances. The Trustees realize their constituency transcends all political ideologies, and it would be foolish to cater to some at the expense of others. Lehigh, like all BUSINESSES, needs money to survive. The faculty who brought this motion to a vote have put the Trustees in a precarious situation that ultimately will cost Lehigh contributions from potential donors on both sides of the political spectrum – some not happy that the Trustees did not revoke Trump’s degree, others not happy that the issue was brought up in the first place. Reading comments from readers of other articles as the story regrettably went national, it appears many parents of potential Lehigh students were turned off as well, and won’t be considering it in the future for their children. The timing of all this is most unfortunate as Lehigh needs to attract both major contributions and talented students (yes – of ALL political persuasions, in order to provide the “diverse” student body Lehigh claims to want to achieve) as they embark on their Path to Prominence.

      Lehigh professors, supposedly the brightest of the bright, have apparently not learned a very fundamental real-world lesson during all their years of schooling – never bite the hand that feeds you!

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