A circulating petition demanding to ban Trump administration staff alumni from attending Harvard university has come under harsh grilling from White House officials, including Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who called upon the university’s chiefs not to tolerate “censorship".
“I hope administration stands firm against this sort of call of censorship among the students,” McEnany, who is herself a Harvard Law graduate, told the Fox Business.
“Academic communities should be bastions of free speech. I will happily walk back on campus and challenge this,” the press secretary added.
Republican Senator from Nebraska Ben Sasse echoed her criticisms, saying that “universities not only shouldn't be afraid of free and open debate - they should welcome it. The whole point of education is to engage ideas you didn't already hold.”
Could Ban on Trump Associates Come Through in Harvard?
The petition in question was uncovered by Fox Business’s Lydia Moynihan this week, after reportedly being drafted by a group of students at Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The motion, which called upon the university to prohibit alumni from the current White House administration officials from teaching, speaking or even attending the institution, however, was reportedly slammed by members of Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Business School.
The internal backlash eventually prompted the motion’s organisers to change the harsh wording of the letter, Fox Business revealed, citing “people with direct knowledge of the matter". The new petition is said to be asking the Harvard university leadership rather 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.”
(2/3) They’re circulating a petition asking classmates to sign on to an effort to hold the Trump administration “accountable” by keeping them off campus.— Charles Gasparino (@CGasparino) November 17, 2020
The plea was reportedly struck down by the Kennedy School’s student council, with one student, Carter Estes, telling Fox Business that "Harvard has hosted a number of controversial guests over the years such as a fellow from the Palestine Liberation Organization, so we should make broadly applicable guidelines that apply to every speaker, not single out Trump appointees".
“A few other conservative students and I made the point we can’t just target Republicans, that isn’t what the Kennedy School stands for,” said Estes, who is a member of the Kennedy School’s student government.
Alan Dershowitz, a well-known attorney and the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School dubbed the reported plea a “new McCarthyism".
“I will challenge any ban that may be enacted by asking to speak at the school," Dershowitz told Fox Business, adding that he would represent any Trump official seeking his or her way on campus pro-bono if the purported ban gets through.
In order to be passed, the motion has to be approved by the student councils from each school. It would then face a final call from Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow.
Harvard told Fox Business in a statement that they were “aware” of the student petition but have no further comment on the matter.