Senator Susan Collins received an honorary degree from St. Lawrence University in 2017, and alumni and faculty of the school are not happy with her, CBS News has reported. St. Lawrence is a small liberal arts college in Canton, New York, that currently has about 2,400 undergraduate students. Collins graduated from the school in 1975 with a degree in government. After her success in politics, St. Lawrence awarded her with two honorary degrees: a doctorate of laws in 1998 and a doctorate of humane letters in 2017.
However, after voting to confirm Brett Kavanaugh — who was accused of sexual assault — to the U.S. Senate, many no longer believe she deserves the humane letters doctorate. A letter signed by over 1,300 alums of St. Lawrence said that Collins’ decision to vote for Kavanaugh “is not in line with the core values” of the school and showed she “lack[ed] the integrity and commitment to justice that [they] expect from the St. Lawrence body.” The letter demanded her degree be rescinded “in support of truth and for all of the victims of sexual assault and violence, of which many of her fellow alumni and students have suffered.”
The alumni were not the only ones riled up, as dozens of faculty also signed a letter stating that retracting the degree would help to “dismantle rape culture,” which they consider to be “attitudes and behavior that normalize and condone sexual assault.”
They also noted that “speaking out against her actions is an exceptional act that contains risk, which is exactly why [they] find it the right action to take.” The faculty that co-signed the letter believe that taking back the degree would send the message that fighting back against rape culture is “more important than saving face or avoiding critique that has the potential to threaten relationships with people who wield considerable power.”
In response, St. Lawrence released a statement in which spokesperson Ryan P. Deul insisted that the school does not take political positions and that honorary degrees are given to recognize an individual’s achievement. He went on to say that a degree had never been revoked in the history of the school, and that they do not intend to begin doing that now.
Collins hasn’t responded to requests for comment on this particular situation, but she did recently do a 60 Minutes interview where she revealed that the backlash for her vote resulted in her receiving violent threats. Still, Collins maintained she would never vote for someone “who had committed sexual assault or who had lied about sexual assault,” and believed Kavanaugh was innocent.