In May of 2009, Drexel’s Earle Mack School of Law (now the Thomas R. Kline School of Law)
held its third-ever commencement at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts in Philadelphia. The keynote speaker was given by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. The purpose of a degree that is awarded honoris causa is to symbolically recognize an individual’s contribution towards society by incorporating them into the university community. However, the doctorate does not allow one to practice in that field, as its meaning is largely symbolic. Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani was awarded this degree likely to signify his leadership after 9/11 to help rebuild New York City. He also helped make NYC the safest large city for five consecutive years and was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2001.
However, Giuliani’s rhetoric at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, has prompted a call to strip him of his honorary degree. During the “Save America” rally, the former mayor spoke to unite the attendees to get justice for a supposedly unfair election via “trial by combat.” He continued to say that he would “stake [his] reputation” on the fact that 2020 election ballots were counted incorrectly. These comments appeared to have sparked additional violence, eventually leading to the death of four rioters and a police officer.
In light of these recent events, universities, students and faculty are calling to revoke his honorary degrees. At Middlebury College in Vermont, Giuliani was also awarded an honorary degree after his speech at the University’s commencement in 2005. As of Jan. 12, Middlebury made the decision to revoke his degree. The editorial board of =Middlebury Campus was among the groups calling for this action and wrote, “For Middlebury to continue to bestow this honor upon Giuliani — whose actions directly endangered lives while instigating insurrection — would betray its values as an institution.” Other universities that have awarded Giuliani honorary degrees include Loyola University (Maryland) and The Citadel.
Among other universities, students and faculty at Drexel have been vocal about the removal of Donald Trump’s personal attorney’s honorary degree. The Kline Student Bar Associations among the groups petitioning for the revocation of Giuliani’s degree. The Drexel Emeriti Faculty have also echoed the same thoughts, pushing for Drexel’s administration to take action soon. In their letter, the Emeriti faculty said: “There can be no place of honor for Mr. Giuliani, and no consequence but dishonor for any institution of higher learning that continues to accord him one.”
In their statement, Drexel’s administration mentioned that discussion to revoke the former mayor’s degree is underway, but no definitive decision has been made regarding the matter. While a decision like this cannot be made lightly, it is due time that Drexel’s administration takes action. An honorary degree represents an individual that upheld the values of our university and continues to do so. Allowing Giuliani to retain his degree would mean that Drexel University continues to celebrate him as a leader in our community. Other universities have taken action to distance themselves from Rudy Giuliani and people like him who no longer sustain their values. Continuing to maintain our connection to Giuliani is detrimental to Drexel students and faculty who continue to uphold our institution’s reputation. Thus, we believe that Drexel University’s administration should take swift action by revoking Rudy Giuliani’s honorary degree.