A private university is facing mounting pressure to revoke an honorary degree it awarded to President Donald Trump.
Students and graduates of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., are urging the school to rescind Trump’s degree in a petition on Change.org after his controversial comments that "both sides" are to blame for the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Trump was granted the degree from the university in 1988 after delivering the commencement address.
As of Friday, the petition has racked up more than 18,000 signatures.
Kelly McCoy, a recent Lehigh graduate, launched the petition Tuesday, calling on Lehigh President John D. Simon to strip Trump of his honorary degree in response to his rhetoric and policies she says are out of line with the values of the university.
“(Trump’s) rejection of diversity and his lack of respect for the differences of others around him stands in direct opposition to ... Lehigh University's values,” the petition states. “Therefore, he does not deserve to bear the distinction of an honorary degree from Lehigh.”
“As a graduate of Lehigh, I am essentially an ambassador for Lehigh as well,” McCoy, 22, told Fox News. “By holding an honorary degree, Donald Trump represents Lehigh as well. Anyone who holds this honor should reflect our values -- or at least respect them.”
"It is only fair that he is held to the same standards," McCoy said.
Simon has received the petition and sent it to the Board of Trustees, which holds the power to revoke honorary degrees, said Lehigh spokeswoman Lori Friedman. The board could discuss the petition at its next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 25.
In a message to the Lehigh community Monday, Simon denounced the racism and hatred of the white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups that marched on the University of Virginia campus. Their actions “are antithetical to the values of our nation and Lehigh University and deserve universal condemnation,” he wrote. Simon was previously executive vice president and provost of UVA, where the Charlottesville rally occurred.
Lehigh’s Board of Trustees received and considered a petition to revoke Trump’s honorary degree on Jan. 12, Friedman said, but the trustees decided not to take any action at that time.
Trump’s brother Frederick C. Trump Jr., graduated from Lehigh in 1960. He died in 1981.
Trump has been awarded five honorary degrees and already been stripped of one, according to the Washington Post. Robert Gordon University in Scotland revoked Trump’s honorary degree in 2015.
In 2015, Lehigh rescinded Bill Cosby’s honorary degree, which was awarded a year earlier than Trump's, after the comedian faced sexual assault accusations. In a statement at the time, Lehigh called Cosby’s behavior “antithetical to the values of Lehigh University and inconsistent with the character and high standards that honorary degree recipients are expected to exemplify.”