Lehigh University: Rescind Donald Trump's Honorary Degree
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In 1988, Donald Trump was awarded an honorary degree by Lehigh University. In his commencement speech that year, it was clear he had already espoused some of the dangerous ideas he stands for today. Furthermore, Lehigh's current criteria for considering or accepting a commencement speaker's nomination states:
"This individual should reflect the goals and values of Lehigh University. Nominees should be someone whose work and achievements reflect our value system at Lehigh."
However, our current values as a university stand against everything Donald Trump represents. In 2011, Lehigh faculty and students drafted the "Principles of our Equitable Community," a document that contains guidelines for making Lehigh a more diverse and welcoming atmosphere for its students. These principles are antithetical to the behaviors and statements of Donald Trump during his presidency and on the campaign trail. Allowing Donald Trump to retain his honorary degree represents a hollow and superficial ideological commitment from Lehigh to these principles.
How does Trump stack up against these 10 principles?
1) "Lehigh University is first and foremost an educational institution, committed to developing the future leaders of our changing global society. Every member of our community has a personal responsibility to acknowledge and practice the following basic principles."
- Trump ran on a platform of nationalism in 2016 - a decidedly "America First" policy. His proclamation that he is both "a nationalist and a globalist" cannot erase his remarks during his campaign regarding globalism.
- “We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism,” Trump promised during a speech in Washington on April 26, 2016. (Via Slate)
2) "We affirm the inherent dignity in all of us, and we maintain
an inclusive and equitable community."
- Dignity is defined as "the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect." Trump does not confer dignity to groups like Mexicans and Mexican-Americans by referring to them as "rapists" and "bad hombres." Trump does not confer dignity to the Pope by calling him "disgraceful" for questioning Trump's faith. Trump does not confer dignity to differently abled Americans by mocking a reporter. The list could go on and on.
3) "We recognize and celebrate the richness contributed to our lives by our diverse community."
- It is no secret that Trump's campaign centered around the fears of some Americans about the state of diversity in America. In fact, this very fear of diversity drove most voters to Trump. From promising to build a wall to keep out immigrants from Mexico, to attempting to institute a travel ban on Muslim-majority countries, to want transgender individuals removed from the military, Trump has not shown a track record of respect and admiration for the many identities that make America whole.
4) "We promote mutual understanding among the members of our community."
- Trump's partisanship is evident in many of his policies and behaviors, most recently during his speech to the Boy Scout Jamboree. Trump is notorious for using insults and crude language to lambast his opponents, a method that is not conducive to promoting understanding between two opposing parties.
5) "We confront and reject discrimination in all its forms, including that based on age, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economics, veteran status, or any differences that have been excuses for misunderstanding, dissension, or hatred."
- To use an example that is top of mind, it took several days and intense backlash for Trump to finally condemn the white nationalists in Charlottesville. The paragon of discrimination, the KKK, has openly supported Donald Trump throughout his candidacy and presidency for his nationalist and anti-diversity platforms.
- Donald Trump's personal treatment of women throughout his career is abhorrent just on its own.
6) "We affirm academic freedom within our community and uphold our commitment to the highest standards of respect, civility, courtesy, and sensitivity toward every individual."
7) "We recognize each person’s right to think and speak as dictated by personal belief and to respectfully disagree with or counter another’s point of view."
- Let's refer back to that Twitter list in case it wasn't clear before how little respect Trump displays to the people around him.
8) "We promote open expression of our individuality and our differences
within the bounds of University policies."
- To use the example of transgender service members, Trump has made it clear that he does not support or promote the open expression of these members' individuality. It is entirely hypocritical for Trump to express support for these members during his campaign while simultaneously declaring it a "big favor" to the military by removing their right to serve.
9) "We acknowledge each person’s obligation to the community
of which we have chosen to be a part."
10) "We take pride in building and maintaining a culture that is founded
on these principles of unity and respect."
Donald Trump does not demonstrate a willingness to respect these principles listed above. The various examples presented here just scratch the surface of his divisive and narrow-minded politics. His rejection of diversity and his lack of respect for the differences of others around him stands in direct opposition to the principles laid out here. He does not reflect Lehigh University's values. Therefore, he does not deserve to bear the distinction of an honorary degree from Lehigh. To suggest otherwise would ignore and minimize the work of Lehigh's community to promote diversity and inclusion on its campus.
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