SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP/WPRI) — The University of Rhode Island is revoking honorary degrees bestowed upon two once-prominent advisers to former President Donald Trump: retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
The university’s board of trustees voted Friday to revoke the degrees following internal deliberations that included a recommendation by URI President Marc Parlange.
The president said in a statement that Flynn and Giuliani “no longer represent” the values and standards they demonstrated when they first received the honors.
“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.”
Giuliani, who served as one of Trump’s top legal advisers, was awarded the Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa in 2003 based on his leadership in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to URI.
Flynn, who briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser before resigning following reports he misled Trump officials about his contacts with Russia, was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 2014.
Messages seeking comment were left Friday with a spokesperson for Giuliani and a member of Flynn’s family in Rhode Island.
The university board cited a number of findings by URI’s honorary degree committee, which is made up of faculty, staff and students, that led to its decision.
For Flynn, it noted, among other things, that he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The Rhode Island native and 1981 URI graduate was pardoned by Trump in 2020.
For Giuliani, the university concluded that his words “encouraged domestic terrorist behavior” that led to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.
It also noted he has been suspended from practicing law in the District of Columbia and New York for making “unfounded claims of rampant fraud during the 2020 presidential election.”
Two state GOP lawmakers released statements Friday afternoon to convey their dismay about the decision.
“I find the ‘cancel culture’ crusade on the campus of the University of Rhode Island, led by President Marc Parlange, to be absolutely disgusting and disgraceful. Rhode Island’s great patriot and war hero, General Michael Flynn, served our country with honor,” Rep. Robert Quattrocchi wrote. “The recommendation by URI to discredit General Flynn solely based on political discourse, lacks the fundamental intellectual capacity and inclusivity for a modern institution of higher learning and must be overturned immediately. Rhode Island was founded on the principles of independent thinking. It is a shame that URI has forgotten our core values. Perhaps the proposition that should be up for consideration is to revoke the contract of the new president. Our students deserve better.”
“URI President Parlange states in his letter that, ‘As a civic institution, URI has the privilege and responsibility to sustain and preserve American democracy by ensuring and modeling good citizenship,’ and that “revoking these honorary degrees reinforces our values and allows us to lead with truth and integrity,” Rep. Sherry Roberts wrote.
“First, the purpose of the University is to educate students,” she continued. “It is not to play politics, nor to act as judge and jury of General Flynn by stripping him of his accomplishments, which were rightfully earned, simply because Parlange doesn’t agree with Flynn on the political issues of the day. What example does this set for students who attend URI if they don’t have confidence that the University won’t strip them of their rightful accomplishments in the future? For Parlange to state that his decisions “are based on the preservation of American democracy and modeling good decisions”, when in fact Parlange’s attempt at playing politics is in direct violation of the very values he claims he wants to preserve. To treat the decorated General Flynn, who has so honorably served his country, with such contempt under the guise of democracy is not only the direct opposite of “modeling good behavior,” but it is reprehensibly the direct opposite of truth, integrity and democracy.”