College should rescind honorary degree due to Northam’s actions


The College of William and Mary is getting ready to celebrate its 326th year next weekend. Do you know who is not celebrating now? Gov. Ralph Northam.

There are two components to the political firestorm Northam is facing. One is his despicable comments on late term abortion, and the other is the now infamous photo from his old yearbook.

Is Northam’s honorary degree, which he received last year, still appropriate given the recent political storm of his yearbook photo from medical school?

The photo in question is on his yearbook page from the 1980s and displays a blackface costume along with a person dressed as a Ku Klux Klan member. The photo was first published by Big League Politics and then confirmed by The Virginian-Pilot with widespread condemnation from both Democrats and Republicans.

Sen. Kamala Harris stated on Twitter, “Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the strain of racism should have no place in the halls of government. The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward.”

Gov. Northam released a statement, “Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that was clearly racist and offensive.”
Now, he is vehemently denying that he is either person in the photograph, which is odd considering he already apologized for the photo. Backpedaling aside, he is now claiming that he did not see the photo until this February.

I don’t know about you, but that strikes me as so full of you-know-what. Northam refuses to resign, even after both the Virginia Republicans and Democrats have called for his removal from office or the condemnation of the photo itself.

Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez wrote: “It’s time for Ralph Northam to step aside and let Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax to serve Virginians as their next governor.”

Lt. Governor Fairfax was accused of sexual assault by a woman named Vanessa Tyson and the story broke right after Northam’s photo debacle. While Lt. Governor Fairfax denies this alle-gation, it certainly puts an interesting spin on Virginia politics. Will this paint Northam as a “better” alternative and allow him to hold on to his seat? Will Lt. Governor Fairfax face a massive falling out? Time will tell.

Northam has turned his cheek and refuses to resign. While we may not have any control over his direct removal from office, we have the responsibility as members of this community to uphold the values of the College.

As a member of the Tribe, and because of the personal values I hold, I believe it imperative that we uphold justice in our beautiful state. The College is an inclusive, diverse and accepting community.

Our values demonstrate acceptance and tolerance for others. Last year, Northam received his honorary degree mere weeks after being elected. Where is the honor now? It is my hope that the College administration revokes his degree and supports those affected by the racist photo.

Email Lauren Smith at


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here