HomePoliticsIn splits, Morehouse College faculty voted to award Biden an honorary degree

In splits, Morehouse College faculty voted to award Biden an honorary degree

ATLANTA — Morehouse College faculty have voted in favor of awarding the president an honorary degree Joe Biden during the upcoming graduation ceremony, where he will give the commencement speech.

But dozens of faculty members voted against the honor or abstained amid frustrations over some of the president’s policies and the school’s decision to host him as a commencement speaker.

The proposal to award Biden the honorary degree passed on a 50-38 vote, with about a dozen faculty members choosing to abstain, according to two faculty members who participated in the call.

The White House declined to comment and Morehouse did not return a request for comment.

Morehouse leadership announced plans last month for Biden to receive the honorary degree, a decision that was reportedly first made in September, before the historically black college invited Biden to serve as its commencement speaker.

But procedurally, administration officials overlooked an important step in the process, which requires faculty to vote to approve that decision.

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“It is imperative to make clear that the recent decision to meet to vote to award Biden an honorary degree is not in question because of current political matters. The decision to call a faculty vote is due to an error in the process, which traditionally includes a faculty vote that usually takes place in September,” Morehouse said in a statement last week.

Still, the new timing of the vote — which came as college campuses across the country saw protests against the war in Gaza — turned a typically mundane faculty vote into a vehicle for staff to once again express their opposition to Biden’s visit.

In the week leading up to the vote, a small group of faculty members circulated a letter expressing their opposition to the honorary degree, citing in part Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza.

“We recognize the honor that typically comes with having the most powerful elected person in the world speak in Morehouse. “Right now, however, the US government’s high-profile policies are responsible for the suffering of millions of people around the planet,” the letter said.

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Cedric Richmond, co-chair of the Biden-Harris reelection campaign and a Morehouse alumnus, said Biden “deserves” to be recognized by Morehouse, citing his record that has ranged from appointing the first Black woman to the Supreme Court to overseeing the lowest level of black unemployment in history.

“In my opinion, he has earned an honorary degree,” Richmond said.

In response to some of the lingering opposition over Biden’s visit to campus, Morehouse last week arranged a meeting between a small group of students and faculty and Steve Benjamin, head of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Some attendees expressed concern about the controversy surrounding Biden’s policies toward Israel and his handling of the war in the Gaza Strip, which was the focus of Sunday’s ceremony, and implored Benjamin to ensure the president’s speech would not change in a campaign speech.

A White House source familiar with plans for Biden’s commencement speeches said the president will “focus on the students” during his remarks while also using the speech to “assuage their concerns.”

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This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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