Harvard Law, Hold Trump Officials Accountable

Harvard Law School

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Harvard Law School must refuse to serve as a tool to launder the reputations of those who crafted and enabled the Trump administration’s anti-democratic, anti-immigrant, racist, and morally reprehensible abuses. We call on Harvard to commit that it will not hire or affiliate with any senior official in the Trump administration or Congressional leader who was complicit in the administration’s immoral actions.

Harvard Law School must make a clear statement that people who condone and participate in anti-democratic, racist, xenophobic, and immoral practices have no home at Harvard.

To view a version of this petition with hyperlinks and signatures, please click here.

Petition by
Emma Leibowitz
Washington, District of Columbia

To: Harvard Law School
From: [Your Name]

January 20, 2021

Dear Dean Manning and other Harvard Law School Leadership:

The violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, was a shocking and horrifying attack—not just on the nation’s elected leaders and staff working at the Capitol Building, but on the very prospect of democratic self-governance.

Yet this tragic escalation was the foreseeable consequence of Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency. Officials in the executive and legislative branches enabled Trump’s abuses of power and facilitated the devastating harms wrought by his administration.

We write because we firmly believe that Harvard Law School and Harvard University as a whole must refuse to serve as a tool to launder the reputations of those who crafted and enabled the Trump administration’s anti-democratic, anti-immigrant, racist, and morally reprehensible acts. We call on you to commit that Harvard Law School will not hire or affiliate with any senior official in the Trump administration or Congressional member who was complicit in the administration’s immoral actions.

Harvard espouses values that are incompatible with the abhorrent acts of the Trump administration. As part of an institution committed to “a just world where all people’s rights and dignity are respected and honored,” it is your responsibility to ensure that the architects of policies that have illegally torn immigrant families apart, rolled back the clock on housing segregation, LGBTQ rights, and education policy, and demolished protections for workers are not welcome at Harvard. Moreover, it is your responsibility as the leaders of a world-class institution—with influence well outside the bounds of its classrooms—to condemn those who tear-gassed peaceful protesters, called for journalists to be jailed, and most recently supported a white supremacist insurrection on the U.S. Capitol.

Harvard Law School has a long history of bringing former government officials to campus as faculty or affiliated scholars. This practice can lead to invaluable learning experiences for Harvard’s students and research opportunities for its staff, regardless of which political party the new members of the Law School community come from. However, welcoming former officials into the Harvard Law School community inevitably lends them Harvard’s credibility and reputation. Many senior Trump administration officials and supporters have sought to distance themselves from the Trump presidency in its deadly final days. In the coming months and years, we can expect these figures to work diligently to rehabilitate their reputations and obscure the stain of their complicity in the Trump administration, just as they have before.

As recent examples at Harvard and other institutions have shown, such decisions can have significant consequences—including contributing to the systemic failure to hold officials who violate foundational democratic norms accountable for their actions. There is no question the Trump administration has undermined the democratic values and moral ideals that Harvard holds as foundational. We ask simply that when deciding which officials to invite to campus, Harvard—as it has in the past—shows itself to be a community that stands by the ideals the University claims to hold: justice; respect for others; honesty; responsibility; and accountability for actions and conduct.

Allowing those complicit in the Trump administration’s actions to join the Harvard community allows them to use the Harvard name to whitewash their involvement in the atrocities of the past four years. It would also teach ambitious students of all ages that attempting to subvert the democratic process, promulgating racist, xenophobic policies, and telling American political leaders to “go back” to where they came from is not just allowed, but will even propel them through a continous revolving door to success and prestige.

We applaud the steps that the Harvard Kennedy School has already taken to disaffiliate with political figures who have dangerously and flagrantly promoted the dishonest and violent ideology of the Trump administration. Similarly, we appreciate the requests President Bacow has made of the incoming presidential administration to reverse the shameful policies of its predecessor. Harvard Law School must not now undermine these actions by rehabilitating the reputations of those who carried out and enabled its most abhorrent policies. We echo the calls by other students and faculty on campus and implore you to take the only action consistent with Harvard’s stated commitment to democracy, integrity, and nondiscrimination.

Harvard Law School faces a choice of whether to welcome the architects and backers of the Trump administration's worst abuses back into polite society. If it does, the school will be complicit if future attacks on our democracy are even more violent—and perhaps more successful.

Today, as the country swears in a new president, we urge you to make a clear statement that people who condone and participate in anti-democratic, racist, xenophobic, and immoral practices have no home at Harvard Law School.

We kindly request a response by February 10, 2021, describing the commitment that Harvard Law School will make regarding hiring or affiliating with senior Trump administration officials and supporters.

Sincerely,
The Undersigned Members of the Harvard Law School Community