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