Liberal Students, Academics Are Out To Revoke Conservatives’ Honorary Degrees

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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  • Syracuse University devised a system to revoke honorary degrees after students and faculty demanded the university rescind Rudy Giuliani’s degree.
  • Giuliani’s honorary degree could be revoked this upcoming spring.
  • Students have asked universities to pull degrees awarded to other conservative figures such as former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Multiple universities across the country have rescinded honorary degrees, which are given to recognize the achievements of individuals who were not students at the university, from prominent members of the Trump administration.

Last month, Syracuse University put wheels in motion to rescind an honorary degree from former New York City mayor and lawyer to former President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Business Insider reported. The university has not revoked an honorary degree in its 152-year history.

Giuliani argued that there was widespread election fraud during the 2020 election. He faced a criminal probe in Georgia regarding the presidential election results and appeared before a grand jury in August. (RELATED: University Losing Funding Over Honorary Degree To Radical Environmentalist)

The University Senate, which approved a resolution in April demanding that the Board of Trustees rescind the degree, did not originally have a process to do so in its bylaws. However, university spokesperson Sarah Scalese confirmed to Business Insider that a process has now been adopted.

David Bruen, Student Association president, told Business Insider that while the process has been slow, Giuliani’s degree could be revoked by spring. The decision now lies with the Senate Committee on Honorary Degrees.

“Syracuse University should definitely rescind Mr. Rudy Giuliani’s honorary degree,” Bruen told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “I have been calling for his honorary degree to be rescinded since last fall in my first term as Student Association President. Mr. Giuliani’s conduct around the 2020 election alone is enough, in my view, to rescind his degree. He’s undermined our elections and continued to spread unsubstantiated lies.”

Syracuse would not be the first university to revoke an honorary degree from Giuliani. Rather, if the committee moves forward with implementing the new system, Syracuse would become the fourth school to follow through with such an act, following in the footsteps of Middlebury College, Drexel University and the University of Rhode Island (URI).

“I have seen some argue that this is too political or even a waste of time, but to those individuals I would say that institutions like Syracuse University need to have open, free-flowing dialogues about our values and to ultimately take stands on issues that matter to our nation, such as the bedrock of our democracy and the health of our electoral system,” Bruen said.

Four other universities, however, have refused to revoke Giuliani’s degrees, according to Business Insider. The universities include St. John Fisher University, Loyola University Maryland, The Citadel and Georgetown University.

In addition, universities including Lehigh University and Wagner University stripped Trump of his honorary degrees following the Jan. 6 capitol riot, Forbes reported. Robert Gordon University in Scotland rescinded the honorary degree in 2015 during Trump’s first campaign for president.

“In a special session… of the Executive Committee of the Lehigh University Board of Trustees, the members voted to rescind and revoke the honorary degree granted to Donald J. Trump in 1988,” Lehigh University wrote in a 2021 statement shared with the DCNF.

Liberty University, which awarded Trump honorary degrees in 2012 and 2017, is the only university to not strip the former president of his honorary degrees.

URI also revoked an honorary degree from former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn in January, The Providence Journal reported. The degrees were stripped because the recipients “no longer represent the highest level of our values and standards that were evident when we first bestowed the degree,” URI President Marc Parlange claimed.

Students have also petitioned their schools to revoke honorary degrees from politicians or public figures they disagree with.

At St. Lawrence University in 2018, more than 1,800 alumni and dozens of faculty members demanded that the school strip Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine of her honorary degree which was awarded a year prior, CBS News reported. The letter cited her vote to confirm Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh during his hearing as their reason to disaffiliate.

Harvard students circulated a January 2021 petition titled “Revoke Their Degrees” which demanded the Ivy League take academic degrees away from multiple conservative alumni including former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, Fox Business reported. The letter claimed the three alumni spread “disinformation” about the 2020 election which led to Jan. 6 events.

The letter claimed that a “Harvard degree is a privilege, not a right.”

Syracuse University, the University Senate, St. John Fisher University, Middlebury College, Drexel University, URI, Loyola University Maryland, the Citadel, Georgetown University, Liberty University, Wagner University, Harvard University and St. Lawrence University did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment. Giuliani could not be contacted.

This story has been updated with comment from David Bruen of the Syracuse Student Association.

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