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Harvard University Students Seek to Revoke Trump Affiliated Graduates’ Diplomas

Donald Trump in the Oval
President Donald J. Trump participates in a Christmas Day video teleconference from the Oval Office Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2018, with military service members stationed at remote sites worldwide to thank them for their service to our nation. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

See below. I am quite terrified to see where this is all headed. The full text of the letter being circulated at Harvard is below:

Revoke their Degrees

The campaign to subvert the outcome of the 2020 presidential election left five dead and nearly killed many more as armed, organized insurrectionists with Confederate flags and Nazi paraphernalia stormed the Capitol in search of members of Congress to kill or capture. Nationwide violence is expected in the weeks to come.

Is Harvard University prepared to take a stand for representative democracy and against violent white supremacy?

It’s no secret that over a dozen Harvard graduates worked hard to spread the disinformation and mistrust that created last Wednesday’s insurrection – from Representative Dan Crenshaw (HKS ‘17), who supported the December Texas lawsuit to invalidate the election, to Senator Ted Cruz (HLS ’97), one of the loudest claimants of fraud and a rare senator still objecting to the election certification after the violence at the Capitol, to White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany (HLS ’17), who dutifully denies the validity of the election.

Harvard must revoke the degrees of alumni whose incendiary language and subversion of democratic processes–rooted in a history of white supremacist voter suppression–incited the violent insurrection on January 6. This includes all who have used their platforms to deny the validity of the presidential election. They do not and should not represent a university committed to “strengthening democracy” and “the advancement of justice.

A wide body of evidence, including studies from Harvard researchers, suggests that societies cannot recover from civil strife without a process for holding violent actors accountable. Communities that eschew justice in favor of “moving on” fall victim to violence once more because the perpetrators never experienced consequences for their actions. So it is unsurprising that a growing chorus of Harvard faculty members like HKS Professor Juliette Kayyem has demanded accountability from the Trump administration on both moral and practical grounds. But what of the Bacow administration? Are those who demanded that Republicans have the courage to impeach the President prepared to exhibit the same courage within their own institution?

After Wednesday’s insurrection, Government professor Ryan Enos and HKS Student Body President Diego Garcia Blum both renewed demands that the University pledge not to invite implicated political figures for speaking engagements or teaching positions. This is an important first step, as is Harvard Kennedy School Dean Doug Elmendorf’s welcome decision to remove Representative Elise Stefanik (College ’06) from the Institute of Politics. However, banning someone from a committee or campus because they incited a violent attempt to overthrow the U.S. government is the least the University can do; it still grants them the benefits of their Harvard degree everywhere outside of Cambridge. Those like Rep. Stefanik, who will wear a ban from Harvard as a badge of honor, may be less sanguine about a career without their B.A or J.D. Revoke their degrees.

There is long-standing institutional anxiety that penalizing alumni will chill open discourse on campus. Harvard should be confident in its ability to expose students to diverse viewpoints without empowering the instigators of a violent, racist revanchist movement. There should be little concern of a cascading “slippery slope” of degrees revoked – unless more alumni choose to encourage armed insurrection in the future. As Prof. Enos writes, avoiding a role in the armed overthrow of your own government is not a difficult standard to meet.

Accountability is not a partisan demand because the validity of armed insurrection is not a partisan issue. Voices from the right and the left must always be welcome, but the acceptability of violence in politics should not be up for debate at Harvard. An absolutist commitment to the free exchange of ideas in this moment resembles a commitment to treating white supremacist uprisings as “politics as usual” and maintaining a dangerous culture of impunity. This cannot be the position Harvard wants to be remembered for at this pivotal moment in American history. 

The violence on Capitol Hill is not an isolated incident, and it will not be the last if institutions like Harvard continue to allow white supremacy to go unchallenged. The preemenence of white supremacy was on display among protestors carrying confederate flags and wearing Nazi symbols, reaffirmed by police officers who met Black protesters with riot gear and live ammunition but welcomed white supremacists with selfies and warm embraces, and immortalized by politicians who continue to label BLM protesters as thugs and criminals while describing Capitol Hill insurrectionists as patriots and American heroes.

Harvard values democracy, equality, and the rule of law. Does it value them enough to hold its own alumni accountable for the most flagrant attack on these principles in recent history?

 A Harvard degree is a privilege, not a right. Harvard had no qualms about rescinding offers of admission to high school students because of racist activity online that did not reflect the University’s values. But holding teenagers accountable is easy. Harvard should have the will to hold adult insurrectionists to the same standards.

Add your name here to the petition here.


Harrison Mann HKS ‘21

Samantha Kahn HKS ‘22

Darold Cuba HKS ‘21

Camila Thorndike HKS ‘20

Crystal Collier HKS ‘21

Written By

Harry J. Kazianis (@Grecianformula) is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive and serves as President and CEO of Rogue States Project, a bipartisan national security think tank. He has held senior positions at the Center for the National Interest, the Heritage Foundation, the Potomac Foundation, and many other think tanks and academic institutions focused on defense issues. He served on the Russia task force for U.S. Presidential Candidate Senator Ted Cruz, and in a similar task force in the John Hay Initiative. His ideas have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, CNN, CNBC, and many other outlets across the political spectrum. He holds a graduate degree in International Relations from Harvard University and is the author of The Tao of A2/AD, a study of Chinese military modernization. Kazianis also has a background in defense journalism, having served as Editor-In-Chief at The Diplomat and Executive Editor for the National Interest.