Lehigh Faculty Votes to Revoke Trump’s Honorary Degree

The faculty would like to strip away a 20-year-old honor in light of several statements in violation of the institution's core values.

If the professors at a Pennsylvania school have their way, a part of the President’s CV you didn’t know about would have an asterisk.

Yahoo/HuffPo (“University Faculty Votes To Revoke Donald Trump’s Honorary Degree“):

Faculty members at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, have voted by a large majority that the school should annul the honorary degree awarded Donald Trump in 1988.

Almost 83 percent of faculty members who participated in this week’s ballot approved the motion calling on the school’s board of trustees to rescind Trump’s degree, reports Lehigh Valley Live. The motion says Trump is unworthy of the honor “based on a long history of numerous documented statements that are antithetical to our core values and beneath the standard for Lehigh’s honorary degrees holders.”

A preamble to the motion declared that “statements made by President Trump do not meet Lehigh’s standards for respectful discourse where differences of opinion exist.”

“If a member of Lehigh’s on-campus community made one of these statements, he/she would be subject to disciplinary action; taken in their entirety, he/she would be at risk of dismissal,” the motion said.

“By staying silent we are bystanders; we normalize hate speech, condone discrimination and bullying; we enable people in positions of power to corrode the foundations of civil society; and we abdicate our commitment and responsibility to uphold and sustain our core values,” it added.

The Lehigh faculty motion cited as a precedent the university’s revocation of Bill Cosby’s honorary degree in 2015 for “behavior inconsistent with the character and high standards expected of honorees.” Cosby faces dozens of sexual assault allegations.

The student body, voting separately, concurred.

On the one hand, this is a rather silly posturing. Much like retroactively stripping away wins and championship banners from college sports teams long after the fact, there’s rather little real impact. To the extent Trump and Cosby enjoyed getting an honorary degree from Lehigh, the glow has long since worn off. It’s also a little cheesy since, presumably, the two men “earned” their honorary degrees by virtue of having been commencement speakers.Taking back their “compensation” after the fact is rather churlish.

On the other, I suppose this is a modest, if ineffective, means of disassociating themselves from Trump—even if few would have made the association absent the announcement.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. CSK says:

    I’ll freely admit to being sufficiently churlish myself so that if this embarrasses/hurts/insults Trump, I’m all for it. He’s certainly caused this country more than enough embarrassment.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    I think the whole honorary degree thing is BS. But if the University feels it has any meaning, then they must be willing to strip an honor when the person demonstrates a dishonorable character.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    I do not approve of this Orwellian, down-the-memory-hole stuff. I do not want the past rewritten to satisfy the present and deprive the future.

  4. grumpy realist says:

    I’m against honorary degrees, period. Partly because my own university never grants them and secondarily because if you’ve sweated blood for five years working on a doctorate it definitely degrades things to see some Kim Kardashian-like character swan in and get awarded one for nothing else than being a celebrity.

    If you want to honor people who come to talk, make up something else that looks like an award and hand it to them with a nice bottle of scotch.

    (The Japanese know how to do this correctly. I have a wonderful over-the-top Japanese scroll with gold phoenixes all over it and covered in beautiful calligraphy. It looks FANTASTIC. But it’s simply a thank-you note I got from one of the Japanese space agencies.)

  5. JKB says:

    Such are the travails of the honorary degree which is a mechanism to vicariously associate the university with someone of accomplishment or public profile. They should check the trash outside the auditorium which where it probably went as Trump left. Trump gave a speech which served his purpose, the university conferred the honorary degree to associate themselves with Trump.

    This is important to the higher ed fetish DemProgs and the faculty lounge crowd. It is barely amusing to people of objective accomplishment like Trump. Trump will probably honor the university with his highest insult, he’ll ignore them. Ask Eminem what that’s like.

  6. teve tory says:

    What Lehigh University should truly be mortally embarrassed about is their employment of Michael Behe. He is a high priest of quackery and aggressive ignorance, and I’m sure that many of the trustees, in quiet rooms, away from the public eye, pound one more scotch and grimace at the unpolishable tarnish.

  7. teve tory says:

    I’m against honorary degrees, period. Partly because my own university never grants them and secondarily because if you’ve sweated blood for five years working on a doctorate it definitely degrades things to see some Kim Kardashian-like character swan in and get awarded one for nothing else than being a celebrity.

    I’m against college athletics for similar reasons. I spent 5 tough years getting a bachelor’s in Physics at NC State. Also graduating that year with Bachelor’s were semi-literate running backs who couldn’t find Canada on a labeled map of North America, because they could run the 40 in 4.5.

    But, like politics, the system is hopelessly entangled with big money, and will not change.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    @teve tory: I only had one football player in any of the classes I taught (introductory physics lab) and never had any problems with his work or his attitude. He sometimes had to ask to have pop quizzes moved for him but was perfectly happy to show up at whatever hour I found convenient to make them up.

    What drove me nuts were the kids who seemed to think that they could not show up for any of the exams and then complain about getting a failing grade….

  9. teve tory says:

    as you mention, there’s definitely Selection Bias going on. None of my physics labs featured running backs. 😛

  10. gVOR08 says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with James’ conclusion: On the one hand meh, on the other hand who cares.

    @teve tory: I had been ignorant of the existence of Michael Behe. Yeah, he’s a larger embarrassment.

  11. DrDaveT says:

    @JKB: Damn, that’s twice in a week that I’ve found myself agreeing with JKB. It must be the apocalypse…

  12. Tyrell says:

    So much for encouraging divergent views, free discourse, debate, and free speech. Typical college campus these days. If it gets one penny of tax money, it should be stopped immediately.

  13. David H. Partington says:

    Graduated from Lehigh in 1951. Surprised that Lehigh, a good school, would have conferred an honorary degree on a well known charlatan, such as Trump. Glad to learn that the present faculty has some moral backbone.