Colleges typically enjoy their attachment to powerful people. They welcome outgoing administration officials with scholarships to their institutes, and they proclaim alumni who are elected to state or national offices.
But in a national crisis, some of the country’s most prestigious universities are being forced to confront their connections with lawmakers who approved and reinforced the conspiracy theories that resulted in a violent attempt to take over the US Capitol last week.
At the University of Pennsylvania released Amy Gutmann, president and Wendell Pritchett, provost a declaration the day after the attempted uprising, saying they “join all those who raise their voices and condemn threatening incitement and attacks on the political freedom of all citizens.”
The statement did not mention Trump, who graduated from the university in 1968. And that came after the editorial board of the student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, had urged university officials to “speak out strongly against Trump for completely rejecting the president’s actions from any connection to the school.”
If the university could avoid drawing the connection between itself and the president, the student newspaper could not forget it. “Throughout the Trump presidency,” editorials said, “students, alumni, and faculties constantly encouraged the university to take ownership of its connection to commander-in-chief.” It said that each Daily pencil syllable the story that mentioned Trump also noted that he was an alumnus.
Hadriana Lowenkron, editor-in-chief of the newspaper, said that since Penn educates many members of marginalized communities, university officials should “distinguish their own values from the statements made and adopted by President Trump.”
This distinction is “important when you have a president who has consistently made remarks or implemented policies that run counter to marginalized groups,” she said.
The Daily Pennsylvanian reported it many Penn students and alumni was disappointed that the university’s statements about the storm on the Capitol were not stronger. Last summer, a group of faculty members called on the university to investigate Trump’s admission to the university, though the provost decided not to do so. A Penn spokesman said The Chronicle the university did not plan to release further statements about the events last week.
Alumni and students from Yale Law School have this week called on their fellow students, sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, to be excluded because of their “efforts to undermine the peaceful transition of power”. Washington Post reported. On Wednesday, Heather K. Gerken, dean of law school, said in a declaration that she is “deeply saddened when a graduate does not live up to the high expectations of this profession or law school.”
She did not name a senator, nor did the school make her available for an interview, but she called this “a sober moment for our democracy, our profession and our law school.”
At Harvard University, a regular destination for former members of presidential administrations, a letter circulated late last year urging administrators to create “accountability guidelines” to control who could be offered positions on campus by the Trump administration. that Harvard Crimson reported. Both Sean Spicer, Trump’s former press secretary, and Corey Lewandowski, the president’s former campaign manager, have earned scholarships at the Harvard Kennedy Schools Institute of Politics.
Conservative voices need to be well represented on campus, but political figures who have helped a riot are another matter, some faculty members say.
Ryan D. Enos, professor of political science, wrote to Lawrence S. Bacow, Harvard’s president, urging him to create guidelines governing who will be invited to Harvard’s campus.
“We must have minimum standards that we keep those associated with Harvard,” Enos wrote. “These standards certainly include support for free elections and not incitement to violence. If we do not insist that at Harvard they do not try to overthrow the free and fair votes of other citizens, or that they will not encourage the violent overthrow of our own government, then we have no standards at all. “
In an interview, Enos said he was very pleased with Bacow’s response. (This answer is not public.) He added that Harvard should publish its decision on how it assesses who will be invited to campus.
If you try to overthrow the US government violently, you will pay consequences in your post-political life.
“Places like Harvard can’t say we wait three months for the dust to settle,” he said. Instead, universities must “show that none of this is condoned. If you try to overthrow the US government violently, you will pay consequences in your post-political life. “
So far, a Harvard spokesman said Bacow “looks forward to continuing the discussion.” At Kennedy School, Dean Doug Elmendorfm has already set a precedent. On Tuesday, I have announced at rep. Elise Stefanik, an alumna, would be removed from an advisory committee at the Department of Politics because she made unfounded allegations of voter fraud. (IN a declaration, Stefanik called the removal a “mark of honor” and added that the decision “to bow and cave to the awakened left will continue to destroy diversity of thought, public discourse and ultimately student experience.”)
Colleges have also quickly revoked honorary degrees in response to the riots. Middlebury College has deprived Rudy Giuliani, who also called on the Trump-backed masses on January 6, to his honor. Lehigh University last week stripped Trump of his honorary degree in 1988. And on Wednesday, Grinnell College announced that U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, who was protesting against the certification of the presidential election, had voluntarily returned his honorary degree following a petition demanding revocation , drew thousands of signatures.
Places like Harvard are likely to have a much easier time rejecting future rebels than public institutions, especially those in red states, said Holden Thorp, former chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and former provost of Washington University in St. Louis. Louis.
“Harvard gets away with it because they’re Harvard and they have a lot of money,” Thorp said. But most other places will have to contend with donors and officials who are more sympathetic to Trump.
“For the last 30 years, universities have been trying to stay out of the fight so they can protect their budgets and raise money from all sides politically,” he said. The coup attempt is only the latest event that runs counter to the core principles of truth and knowledge, which university presidents find they cannot take a firm stand on.
“When you let creationism slip, you let denial of climate change slip, you let Covid denial slip,” Thorp said. “It’s pretty hard to say, now we’ll call them about the election.”