At the end of 2020 a petition surfaced urging Eastern University to rescind the 2009 Alumni of the Year award to State Senator Douglas Mastriano on the grounds that he “failed to meet that standard in his role as Pennsylvania State Representative’’. The award standards include “outstanding service through church community, and/or vocational excellence coinciding with the mission of Eastern University”, including Faith, Reason, and Justice. Mastriano graduated from Eastern University with a BA in history, class of 1986.
The petition was originally created due to a social media post by Mastriano which harbored anti-Muslim sentiment, as well as his anti-mask position during the COVID-19 pandemic. When urged to reconsider his mask position by local clergy in his constituency, Mastriano called the group of 40 faith leaders “cowards”, as well as questioned their faith as Christians.
Commitment to rescinding Mastriano’s award became even more pressing when he was pictured attending the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The Senator’s campaign spent several thousand dollars bussing constituents to the protest, and the Senator himself was scheduled to speak at the event following President Trump. Mastriano is even found in a photo with former PA Representative Rick Saccone attending the event.
Senator Mastriano’s involvement in this event is unsurprising to many. Since November, Senator Mastriano has been a strong proponent of overturning Pennsylvania’s election results, including urging Governor Wolf to appoint Trump as President. Senator Mastriano has also spoken on a podcast affiliated with QAnon, the far-right conspiracy group linked to the attack on the Capitol.
Though Mastriano claims to have left the protest before any violence started, and there is no evidence to suggest this claim is untrue, he has been urged by several peer Senators and Representatives to resign from his position. Senator Mastriano was inaugurated for his second term as State Senator on January 5, the day before the violence at the Capitol began.
These allegations have been acknowledged by the Eastern Alumni Advisory Board, and rescinding of the award is currently under review. However, information beyond “This process is ongoing,” has not been shared with the Waltonian.
Senator Mastriano has made clear he has no intent to resign, and has denied any allegations of terroristic behavior, saying, “When it was apparent that this was no longer a peaceful protest, my wife and I left the area and made our way out of the area. At no point did we enter the Capitol building, walk on the Capitol steps or go beyond police lines.”
Whether Senator Mastriano’s conduct spreading baseless claims about PA election integrity, blatant islamophobia, anti-mask policies, and attendance at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 justifies rescinding his alumni award is for the reader to decide. One thing, however, is clear: Eastern’s commitment to its mission of faith, reason, and justice is under intense scrutiny as the university deliberates over this award.
To view this petition, visit http://chng.it/V2Vxn22P. To view the original award, visit page 15 of the Spring/Summer 2009 edition of the Spirit magazine on Eastern’s webpage. For more information on this issue, please contact the Waltonian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources: WHYY, PA State Senate, Change.org, York Dispatch, Eastern.edu