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Lehigh University votes to revoke Trump's honorary degree

The faculty overwhelmingly voted to rescind the honor, citing Trump's racist and sexist remarks.
trump honorary degree
Photo: Getty Images

The faculty at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania has overwhelmingly voted to strip President Trump of his honorary degree from the school.

Trump received the honorary diploma in 1988, when he was chosen as commencement speaker. At the time, it was customary for the graduation speaker to receive the honor, a university spokesperson said.

On Tuesday, more than 80% of voting-eligible faculty voted to ask the college's board of trustees to revoke Trump's honorary degree. Fourteen percent voted against the motion. Student newspaper "The Brown and White" reported that 350 of 472 faculty members took part. The request, part of a long-standing effort, will now go to the board.

“In his own words, statements made by President Trump do not meet Lehigh’s standards for respectful discourse where differences of opinion exist,” the motion said. “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 cited Trump's comments referring to Haiti and African nations as "shithole countries," his "grab them by the pussy" line about assaulting women from the "Access Hollywood" tape, and his Nazi-sympathetic comments after the Charlottesville white nationalist demonstration, among others.

Michael Raposa, a religious-studies professor who co-authored the motion, told CNN that it was intended to express that faculty members "don't want Lehigh to be identified with the kind of sexist, racist, and Islamophobic utterances" that Trump has made. It was not meant to rebuke Trump's political views. "We did not want this to be a debate about politics," he said.

A previous request to rescind Trump's honorary degree, in the form of an online petition with 30,000 signatures, was presented to the trustees in August 2016, but the board voted to take no action. Sociology professor Ziad Munson told student newspaper "The Brown and White" that regardless of the board's final decision, the vote "will be part of the permanent history of Lehigh."

In 2015, the university voted to revoke the honorary degree it granted Bill Cosby in 1987.