House Republican Relinquishes Honorary Degree Following Student Petition

January 14, 2021 Updated: January 14, 2021

House Deputy Minority Whip Tom Cole (R-Okla.) voluntarily gave up an honorary doctorate from his alma mater on Jan. 12 after a student petition called on the school to rescind the award.

Cole, who joined some 120 House Republicans in challenging electoral votes from states where election integrity was under question, graduated from Grinnell College in 1971. He was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree by the Iowa-based private liberal arts college in 2016.

In a public letter, Grinnell College President Anne Harris said Cole contacted her and “voluntarily relinquished” his honorary degree; she revealed that the college leadership was considering taking it back from the congressman.

“Members of the Board of Trustees, campus leaders, and I prepared to review Grinnell’s honorary degree processes and principles, as well as the historical and constitutional context within which Rep. Cole acted,” Harris said. “This review was to inform the necessary deliberations of the governing bodies that would be involved with a decision to revoke an honorary degree.”

Harris said that shortly after the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, students sent a petition to the college calling for Cole to be stripped of his honorary degree.

The online petition, which was updated to “mission accomplished” status on Jan. 13, has gained more than 2,400 supporting signatures.

Cole said on Jan. 6 that he was against the certification of the electoral votes because the Oklahoma voters he represents “are concerned about fairness and transparency in other states.”

“They have asked me to express their concerns with my vote on the floor today, and as their representative, I intend to do so,” he said.

Cole’s surrender of his degree comes amid a trend in academia to disassociate with Republican lawmakers who challenged the presidential election results. Earlier this week, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), a Harvard University alumna, was removed from a senior advisory committee to the university’s Institute of Politics.

Stefanik said the decision to remove her from the post shows that Harvard is “bowing to the far left.”

“The decision by Harvard’s administration to cower and cave to the woke Left will continue to erode diversity of thought, public discourse, and ultimately the student experience,” she wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. “The Ivory Tower’s march toward a monoculture of like-minded, intolerant liberal views demonstrates the sneering disdain for everyday Americans and will instill a culture of fear for students who will understand that a conservative viewpoint will not be tolerated and will be silenced.

“Congratulations Harvard, the entire Board of the Institute of Politics now consists of only Joe Biden voters—how reflective of America.”