Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University (RGU) will revoke an honorary degree awarded to U.S. business mogul and presidential contender Donald Trump, a spokesperson has announced, following outcry at recent statements.
In a public statement, a spokesperson for the university announced that the degree would be revoked in direct response to statements made during his campaign for U.S. president.
“In the course of the current US election campaign, Mr Trump has made a number of statements that are wholly incompatible with the ethos and values of the university,” the spokesperson said. “The university has therefore decided to revoke its award of the honorary degree.”
The degree, a Doctorate of Business Administration (D.B.A.), was awarded to Trump in 2010 “in recognition of his achievements as an entrepreneur and businessman.”
But in recent months, Trump has made a series of controversial statements on the campaign trail against immigrants from Mexico and people of Muslim faith. A pledge this week to ban all foreign Muslims from entry to the U.S. on terrorism concerns prompted a strong backlash from American and international figureheads.
The revocation decision by RGU comes in response to a public petition calling on the university to rescind the degree in response to the candidate’s “unrepentant, persistent verbal attacks on various groups of people based on nationality, religion, race and physical abilities.” The petition had amassed over 70,000 signatures by the time the announcement was made.
Speaking to The Student on the decision, RGU Students Union President of Communication and Democracy Edward Pollack expressed satisfaction.
“I’m proud that RGU has come to this decision,” he told The Student. “I think Donald Trump’s comments are atrocious and unacceptable and he is not an appropriate ambassador for RGU. I think what is significant is how the student and Scottish community have come together to stand against his views and it shows that we are a community that puts equality, compassion and kindness before everything else.”
Pollack had personally taken the campaign to the university, reporting the petition to the Principal and meeting with senior management.
Speaking on the private deliberations, he described the action as a “tough decision” for the University.
“The discussion was largely in favour of the decision,” Pollack told The Student. “I think they all knew that Trump was not an appropriate ambassador, and felt the action would be appropriate. [But] it was difficult because it will have wider impacts.”
Among the concerns raised, Pollack said, was a possible backlash from the man himself.
“It will be an insult to the people who made the original decision, it’s a very public statement against Trump and is probably one of the biggest sort of attack against Trump and is quite humiliating for him as he has such big connections to the North East,” he said. “There is also the chance he could make a public statement against RGU, which would be bad for our reputation.
“But in light of all of those things, RGU still decided to do the right thing in the end.”
The decision was praised by students and alumni of Robert Gordon University.
“I’m very happy; I think it was a wise, brave decision and I commend RGU for doing what is right,” Karin Allan, fourth year Media student, told The Student.
“I was quite glad,” recent graduate Liam Mcdonald added. “As all of [Trump’s] latest comments towards religions and races have been very disgusting, and knowing that RGU is very supportive to any person who is eager to learn, regardless to race, gender, religion etc, I thought that this has been very good response from the [university].”
Paul Greene, himself a former RGU President of Democracy and predecessor to Pollack, agreed.
“I’m really pleased,” he told The Student. “RGU has a very international and diverse community, and his comments about race and religion are awful. Giving [Trump] a degree belittles the awards students have worked really hard to achieve.”
Greene recalled being at the university when the degree was first awarded in 2010, but described the ceremony as subdued.
“It was done via a private ceremony, rather than at a normal ceremony,” he told The Student. “A convoy of Jeeps arrived and several buildings on campus were shut down for the occasion.
“It was at a time where the jury was still out on the adverse impact from his golf course, but it still attracted a handful of demonstrators outside the Uni building. So yeah people knew – but I don’t think they knew a lot about him, or many of the awful things which were to come.”
The awarding of the degree was intended to be mutually beneficial to both parties, Greene, who served as President from 2013-2015, added.
“The uni wanted to showcase credible business links, and he wanted to improve his reputation in the region. [But] I think the uni didn’t quite foresee how his reputation would be tarnished in Scotland so quickly, and of course the whole president saga.”
To other students, the existence of the degree came as a surprise.
“I had absolutely no idea,” McDonald told The Student.
“Within my own social circle the topic never came up,” said Allan. “So I probably imagine that it was a very specific, focused group of people that [were aware].”
McDonald added: “I can completely understand why he was awarded one, because the man is great at being a businessman, but so far in his presidential campaign he’s proving to a lot of people that he really isn’t that great of a human being with all of his racist remarks.”
A representative from the Trump campaign had not responded at time of press.