Students Call on Harvard to Ban Trump Officials from Speaking, Holding Positions on Campus

POLITICS & POLICY
Students and pedestrians walk through the Yard at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., March 10, 2020. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Harvard University students are calling on the university to ban Trump officials from giving talks or holding positions on campus over concern “about the impact of the actions of this administration on fundamental democratic institutions.”

In an open letter circulating online for signatures, students write to President Lawrence Bacow and Harvard University deans and leadership that they are hoping to get ahead of the tradition of “Harvard [becoming] a temporary home for officials from the outgoing administration.” 

“We write to you now, in advance of the conclusion of the Trump administration, extremely concerned about the impact of the actions of this administration on fundamental democratic institutions,” the letter reads. “Most notably, in actively undermining faith in the electoral process and in refusing to concede the 2020 election, the Trump administration has trampled norms of free and fair elections and peaceful transfer of power that have defined our republic for over two centuries. These norms are crucial to the global well-being of democratic institutions.”

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It continues: “A complete disregard for the truth is a defining feature of many decisions made by this administration. That alone should be enough to draw a line.”

President Trump has refused to concede to President-elect Joe Biden though a number of news outlets, including the Associated Press, have projected Biden as the victor, having won both the popular vote and the electoral college. Trump has instead maintained that widespread voter fraud has rigged the election in Biden’s favor, and has pursued a number of lawsuits in battleground states hoping to overturn election results.

The letter states that the signatories hold a “variety of political views” but are all concerned that in inviting members of the Trump administration to Harvard, “the school would be legitimizing this subversion of democratic principles that up to now had been universally accepted by both political parties.”

The students call on the administration to “set up a system of accountability for high-level political appointees and Trump administration consultants before they are invited as fellows or to teach or speak on campus.”

The letter adds that the guidelines should be shared with students by year’s end. 

“Harvard should stand firm with its stated commitments to a just Harvard and a just world, to free and honest inquiry in the unfettered pursuit of truth, the right to vote, a free and independent press, checks and balances, the peaceful transfer of power, and the rule of law with equal justice for all,” the letter says. “We believe that Trump administration officials who failed to live up to that standard have disqualified themselves from being hired by the school as faculty or fellows.”

It goes on to say Harvard should “fully vet” speakers for their role in “undermining these commitments” to democracy and to “hold them fully accountable for that complicity” or to not invite them to speak at all. 

The letter concludes, “We do not believe, however, that individuals who engage in this behavior should be legitimized or rewarded by the university. An institution dedicated to the fostering of good democratic government should remain apart from those who were willing to bring it down for their own benefit.”

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