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Morehouse College faculty vote in a split vote to award Biden an honorary degree

Morehouse College faculty voted Thursday to award an honorary degree to Joe Biden at the upcoming graduation ceremony on Sunday, for which he plans to deliver the commencement address.

The vote to award the honorary degree was a 50-38 decision, with a dozen faculty members abstaining ahead of the planned visit. This has prompted protests from some students, faculty and alumni over the president’s handling of the war between Israel and Hamas.

Although the decision to host Biden as a speaker was made in September, it wasn’t until last month that Morehouse announced plans for Biden to both serve as a commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree from the historically black college in Atlanta, in the main swing state. of Georgia.

Related: Morehouse students criticize Biden as commencement speaker: ‘A political pawn to get black votes’

Biden, campaigning for a second term in the White House, is also trying to boost fragile support among voters of color and young voters, two key parts of the coalition that helped him get elected.

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Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine – Georgia released a statement last month, shortly after confirmation that Biden would appear.

“More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children,” the statement said. “More than 77,000 people have been injured. Every hospital and university in Gaza has been destroyed. None of this would have been possible without the support and sponsorship of the Biden administration. Every college or university that is currently giving the platform to President Biden is supporting genocide.”

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, national associate director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) and a Morehouse graduate himself, called on the college to rescind the invitation.

Mitchell said last month: “While I fully understand why Morehouse would normally want the President of the United States to speak at our commencement, our institution would never welcome a President to speak. George W. Bush would not have been welcome at the height of the Iraq War or in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and Donald Trump would not have been welcome at any time.”

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Like others, Mitchell specifically pointed to Biden’s actions in Gaza as a reason to withdraw the invitation.

“Because the White House continues to refuse to end our government’s military, financial and diplomatic support for Benjamin Netanyahu’s genocide in Gaza, President Biden should not speak at the commencement of Morehouse,” he wrote.

Before the speech, Steve Benjamin, head of the White House Office of Public Engagement, met for two hours with Morehouse faculty and students. Some students were concerned that Biden would use the opportunity to make a campaign speech, instead of focusing on their graduation.

Despite the faculty’s decision to vote in favor of receiving the honorary degree, the school and the White House are preparing for student protest during the graduation ceremony. Thomas has said he would “cancel or suspend commencement services on the spot” if protests grew so large that zip-tied people were removed from commencement. In a statement last week, he called for the protests not to be disruptive.

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“As we approach our upcoming commencement exercises, I want to emphasize that Morehouse College fully supports peaceful and non-disruptive acts of solidarity that do not interrupt the flow of the honored celebration,” Morehouse President David A Thomas wrote in a statement last week .

“We recognize that wearable accessories of solidarity, such as a stole, cap ornament or collar pin, can be powerful symbols of support for important causes. However, it is essential that we maintain a spirit of peace, respect and joy for the resilient Class of 2024 and their loved ones during this momentous occasion. We don’t want any more attention to be diverted from their long-awaited holiday.”

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