Education

Middlebury considers revoking honorary degree given to Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani speaks to supporters of President Trump near the White House last Wednesday before the U.S. Capitol came under siege. C-SPAN screenshot

Middlebury College is considering revoking an honorary degree held by Rudy Giuliani in light of the role he played in “fomenting” the riot in the U.S. Capitol last week, college President Laurie Patton said Sunday. 

Giulani, who since 2018 has worked as President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, has been a leading voice in the propagation of election fraud conspiracies advanced by Trump and his supporters since President-elect Joe Biden won the November general election. 

He addressed the president’s supporters before they stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, urging them to seize the riot as a “trial by combat” in the ongoing effort to invalidate election results.

Giuliani’s role in the lead-up to Wednesday’s riot meant he contributed to “an insurrection against democracy itself,” Patton said in a statement, and Middlebury’s leadership has “initiated the process we have put in place to consider” revocation of honorary degrees.

“Earlier this week, I spoke of our responsibility for safeguarding and improving our fragile democracy, especially those of us privileged to be in higher education,” Patton said, referencing an statement she sent students the day after the riot. “As we pursue these goals, we must not be indifferent to the actions of those who are actively working against them, and opposed to our institutional values.”

The college “will have more to communicate” about the process of revoking the degree in the days ahead, Patton said, but did not specify details of that process.

Giulani received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Middlebury in 2005, when he delivered a commencement address at the college’s graduation ceremony in the wake of his tenure as mayor of New York City. Though that visit came some 13 years before he began working as Trump’s lawyer, at the time it prompted outrage and controversy over his mayoral record.

Some students wore red cloth tied around their mouths during his speech in protest of Giuliani’s  treatment of people of color, LGBT people and New York City’s homeless population, according to an Associated Press report.

In the weeks leading up to the speech, controversy brewed over a cartoon that ran in the Middlebury Campus newspaper portraying Giuliani as Adolf Hitler — an episode that garnered a headline in the New York Times.

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Then-president of the college Ronald Liebowitz called the cartoon “a gross misunderstanding of history, let alone of Mr. Giuliani’s record.” The Campus’ top editor resigned over the controversy, but told the Times that if given the opportunity to do it all over again, she would likely still choose to run the cartoon.

The Campus on Sunday morning published an editorial calling on Middlebury to revoke Giuliani’s degree. “Giuliani has been unwavering” in his propagation of election fraud rhetoric, the editorial board wrote, “standing alongside the president to put America’s people and values alike in jeopardy.”

Laurie Patton
Laurie Patton at her 2015 inauguration as Middlebury College president. Middlebury College photo

Despite the symbolic nature of an honorary degree, continuing to allow Giuliani to hold his degree would be a betrayal of the college’s values, the board wrote, while “to revoke it would be to fortify them.” Patton announced the college would consider revoking the degree several hours after the editorial’s publication.

A busload of 51 Vermonters traveled to Washington to join the “Stop the Steal” rally that Giuliani addressed Wednesday.

Members of Vermont’s congressional delegation were first barricaded inside, and then evacuated from, the Capitol as members of the pro-Trump mob stormed the building, vandalizing property and killing a Capitol police officer. Both Republican Gov. Phil Scott and Vermont’s state Legislature have called for Trump to be removed from the presidential office for his role in inciting supporters to riot over the unfounded claims of election fraud.

During the weekend, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives said they would introduce articles Monday calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and wrest power from the president, and failing that, would move ahead with articles of impeachment.

In the fallout of the riot, two U.S. colleges — Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and Wagner College in New York — have moved to rescind honorary degrees earlier conferred to Trump. Giuliani appears to be the first member of Trump’s supporting cast to face such a step as Middlebury considers revoking his degree.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the location of Wagner College. It is in New York.

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James Finn

About James

James is a senior at Middlebury College majoring in history and Spanish. He is currently editor at large at the Middlebury Campus, having previously served as managing editor, news editor and in several other roles there. James was a reporter this summer at the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and earlier was an intern at the Addison County Independent.

Email: [email protected]

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