The Lehigh University Board of Trustees voted today to rescind the honorary degree it granted to President Donald Trump in 1988.
A rescission of Trump’s degree had been desired by Lehigh faculty members for years. In 2018, the university’s faculty voted overwhelmingly (296-50) for the board of trustees to rescind the degree based on several of Trump’s statements and actions that they viewed as violating the schools values. The trustees declined to do so.
But the events of this week proved to be sufficient to move the board to action. Just one day after an insurrectionist mob stormed into and took over the U.S. Capitol, resulting in the death of five people, including a police officer, the Executive Committee of the board voted for the recision, which the entire board affirmed on Friday.
On Thursday, Lehigh University President John D. Simon issued a statement in which he called the deadly Capitol riot, a “violent assault on the foundations of our democracy- the abiding respect for the will of the people exercised in a free election and the peaceful transfer of power.” Without mentioning Trump, Simon said he hoped “we can turn the sadness and anger that the lawlessness in our nation’s capital has evoked into motivation to make our nation more just.”
Social media reactions to the news by Lehigh faculty and alums were often critical of the university for taking so long to revoke Trump’s recognition. “Embarrassing that this took so long” was an example of the typical sentiment.
This is not the first time that Lehigh has revoked an honorary degree. In 2015, it was one of several universities to yank Bill Cosby’s degree after depositions were made public concerning his sexual assaults.
Liberty University and Wagner College also have awarded honorary degrees to Donald Trump. At this time, they have not taken steps to rescind, but with bipartisan fury growing over the president’s actions this week, pressure to do so will surely grow.