The University of Rhode Island Board of Trustees voted today to revoke the honorary degrees previously awarded to retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. At the request of the URI Faculty Senate Executive Committee, the URI Honorary Degree Committee deliberated in December 2021, and forwarded its recommendation to URI President Marc Parlange at the end of the month.
“After reviewing the recommendation from the President, who endorsed the committee’s recommendation, the Board voted to approve the revocation of these honorary degrees,” said Chair of the Board of Trustees Margo Cook. “The Board of Trustees supports the University and its mission to uphold its values, especially its commitment to intellectual and ethical leadership and fostering an environment of diversity and respect.”
“I agree with the Board’s decision,” said President Parlange. “Based on the findings of the Honorary Degree Committee, I made a recommendation to the Board of Trustees to revoke the honorary degrees of General Flynn and Mayor Giuliani, agreeing that they no longer represent the highest level of our values and standards that were evident when we first bestowed the degree.”
In 2003, Mayor Giuliani was awarded the Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa based on his demonstrated leadership in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. In 2014, General Flynn, a 1981 graduate of the University and a three-star Army general, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
The Honorary Degree Committee, comprised of URI faculty, staff, and students, and chaired by the Provost, carefully conducted a comprehensive and objective review of the available evidence regarding this matter. The Committee forwarded its carefully considered recommendation to the President, and President Parlange as well as the committee approached the challenging task with deep respect for the divergent views expressed.
The Committee’s findings:
General Flynn pleaded guilty twice to a felony count of “willfully and knowingly” lying to the FBI in exchange for a plea agreement.
In June 2021, at a conference in Dallas, Texas, General Flynn appeared to suggest that a military coup was needed in the U.S., much like the one staged by the military in Myanmar in 2021.
In November 2021, during a rally in San Antonio, Texas, General Flynn called for the establishment of “one religion” in the U.S. His behavior was widely condemned as a violation of the doctrine of religious freedom enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Mayor Giuliani participated in the January 6, 2021, rally that incited the assault on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. His words encouraged domestic terrorist behavior aimed at preventing Congress from certifying the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Mayor Giuliani has been suspended from practicing law in Washington, D.C., and the State of New York for his unfounded claims of rampant fraud during the 2020 presidential election. The courts have determined that there is evidence that Mayor Giuliani has made false and misleading statements in representing President Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed reelection efforts.
“As a civic institution, URI has the privilege and responsibility to sustain and preserve American democracy by inspiring and modeling good citizenship,” Parlange said. “Revoking these honorary degrees reinforces our values and allows us to lead with truth and integrity.”
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