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FAQ Lehigh Faculty Motion on Donald Trump's Honorary Degree

What is the motion in a nutshell?

A call by the faculty to the Lehigh Board of Trustees to rescind President Trump’s honorary degree based on a long history of numerous documented statements that are antithetical to our core values and beneath the standard for Lehigh's honorary degree holders (see attached examples).

Isn’t this a waste of time since the Board already rejected the idea?

No. This motion is as much about faculty action as it is about board action. If we say and do nothing, we are at best bystanders and at worst giving approval through our silence.

When we adopt this motion we send a message to each other, to our staff and students, and to the world at large that we do not accept sexist, racist, demeaning speech, speech that marginalizes, intimidates, and limits the potential of people based on gender, race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or physical ability. As faculty we are expected to lead and uphold the values upon which this institution was founded and depends, and we expect the same from those we honor, especially those who are leaders and in positions of power and influence.

Doesn’t the motion undermine free speech?

Not at all. Mr. Trump did, does, and can speak freely, and free speech defines the fundamental core of this university. But words matter, and a responsibility that comes with the right of free speech is calling out repeated statements that are racist, sexist, and demeaning (see attached): such expressions are completely at odds with the values upon which this institution was founded.

Isn't this really just about different political points of view?

No. Politics and policy can be and should be debated. People across the political spectrum-- from conservative to liberal, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and those without party affiliation-- recognize Mr. Trump's statements for what they are (see attached) and reject them.

What are the precedents for revoking an honorary degree?

Lehigh's Board of Trustees revoked Bill Cosby's degree in 2015, saying that his past behavior was "antithetical to the values of Lehigh University and inconsistent with the character and high standards that honorary degree recipients are expected to exemplify." This is a common standard among our aspirational peer institutions. Just last week, the University of Pennsylvania revoked Steve Wynn's honorary degree based on "acts and conduct that are inimical to the core values of our university." In the case of Mr. Trump, Lehigh stands with only Liberty University and Wagner College in maintaining his honorary degree.

Why now?

Because standing up for our values and upholding our standards is always timely and is the first step in moving forward with our many other priorities and goals.

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