Rescind Richard Grenell’s Senior Fellow Position

The Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University

Last week, Carnegie Mellon’s Institute for Politics and Strategy (IPS) announced that Richard Grenell, former Ambassador to Germany and former Acting Director of National Intelligence, would join IPS as a Senior Fellow. The press release by IPS states that Grenell is “qualified to help the nation think through twenty-first-century diplomacy.” Though we hold great respect for the Institute for Politics and Strategy, our director, and our faculty and staff, we disagree. Inviting Richard Grenell as a Senior Fellow would not only tarnish the reputation and credibility of IPS but hurt the greater Carnegie Mellon community.

Grenell’s Career

Called an “undiplomatic diplomat” by two New York Times staff writers, Richard Grenell was excessively partisan and disrespectful in his tenure in Germany. After stating to far right-wing media site Brietbart that he wanted to “empower other conservatives through Europe,” Grenell received criticism from numerous German politicians. Martin Schulz, the former leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party of Germany, stated that “Grenell isn’t behaving like a diplomat but instead like a right-wing extremist colonial governor.” Metin Hakverdi, a Social Democrat delegate and member of the German-US parliamentary friendship group, stated how Germany was “fortunate to have had great US ambassadors who built bridges and did not do party politics” in the past, suggesting that Grenell does not. Furthermore, Wolfgang Kubicki, a member of the Free Democrats and vice president of Parliament, suggested that Grenell should be expelled from Germany after he criticized the government’s budget plans and defense spending. As IPS students, Grenell’s tenure in Germany raises the question if he could truly be “generous and respectful of varying opinions.”

In his short time as Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Richard Grenell pushed out senior DNI officials, implementing changes in organizational structures without notifying Congress. He was accused by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of undermining “critical intelligence functions” by doing so. Grenell was also accused of taking advantage of the position to undermine the work of his predecessor, Michael Atkinson, who worked on the Trump-Ukraine whistleblower report.

A response from Dr. Kiron Skinner, Director of the Institute for Politics and Strategy, cites Grenell’s unique perspective as someone part of the “US-led effort to decriminalize homosexuality throughout the world.” However, in February, the Human Rights Campaign based in the U.S., stated it had seen “no meaningful efforts” by the Trump administration in doing so. There are also reports of European LGBTQ+ activists questioning Grenell’s decriminalization efforts when he is also allied with far-right European political parties that are often anti-LGBTQ and Islamaphobic.

John E. McLaughlin, who served as deputy director and acting director of the C.I.A. during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, stresses that working in intelligence requires a person to “look at things dispassionately, almost clinically.” Grenell has shown through his behavior in Germany, and in his time as acting DNI that he cannot do that––this concerns us as students in IPS, and we question if Grenell can possess these skills and be non-combative while engaging with the CMU community.

Grenell’s Character

Grenell’s approach to discourse and debate has repeatedly shown itself to be inflammatory, ill-informed, and disrespectful. On several occasions, Grenell has abandoned productive discourse and instead turned to shallow insults based on appearance, all of which were misogynistic in nature. Additionally, he called for punishments for companies not willing to work with police departments. This misguided statement is a threat to core principles of both choice and privacy. He also supports the denial of science and research presented by sharing a tweet that referred to this research as “gaslighting.” Not believing in science, research, and facts is a dangerous mindset to be held by any individual, and its propensity to create widespread damage exponentially increases when this is a mindset held by someone who influences the leaders of tomorrow at an institution like our own.

Carnegie Mellon and Dietrich College boast of sharing the values of “inclusion, empathy, and compassion.” By inviting Richard Grenell into our institution, our administration is acting in direct opposition to these values. He has exhibited behaviors of insulting and belittling those in opposition, not practices of empathy or compassion. His approach to diplomacy sets a poor example to students who will soon engage in the international community, and his dangerous exhibition of extreme bias does not allow for the collaborative environment, well-suited for sharing ideas, that Carnegie Mellon desires.

We value diversity of political thought, but some voices detract from rather than contribute to a healthy political environment.

The Hiring of Richard Grenell
Who we hire shapes our internal discourse, students should feel that their faculty are supportive and open to hearing their voices. Welcoming Richard Grenell will damage the perception of the university and the program in the eyes of the world at large. Past controversies make it unlikely that his hiring will escape public notice, as he has proven himself as abrasive and divisive through his insults to Germany.

Adding that Carnegie Mellon has enacted a hiring freeze since March, this decision disregards other qualified applicants hoping for any position in Carnegie Mellon during this pandemic and difficult time.

Actions for the Institute for Politics and Strategy

To maintain the credibility, respectability, and prestige of IPS, we ask that the department begin with the following actions. The Institute for Politics and Strategy must:


  1. Rescind its decision to welcome Richard Grenell as a Senior Fellow. As this petition along with backlash on IPS social media demonstrates, welcoming Grenell to IPS would negatively affect the credibility of IPS, damage trust between IPS students and its director, and hurt the greater CMU community.

  2. Implement a hiring process for all positions in IPS that would make any form of nepotism and other issues impossible. The decision to hire Richard Grenell appears to have happened behind closed doors, as CMU is currently on a hiring freeze. We therefore ask for a revamped hiring process for the department which would value credentials of potential hires with clear roles, as Grenell does not have a PhD, is not an established researcher, and was never given a clear role as instructor or researcher. Furthermore, we would like to know the rationale used to hire Grenell at such uncertain times.

  3. Create a IPS Student Advisory Board in which undergraduate and masters students can have a say in major decisions from the department. With actions #1 and #2 in mind, we demand the creation of a committee in which students can represent themselves in the department when major decisions, like the egregious hiring of Grenell, are made. This committee should be composed of two students in each class along with two students from each graduate program.


Please sign this petition and share it with others in the IPS, Dietrich, and greater CMU community to demand that IPS 1) rescind its decision to hire Richard Grenell and 2) enact meaningful change so that a decision like this does not happen unchecked again.

Petition by
catherine taipe
Deer Park, New York

To: The Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University
From: [Your Name]

We are a group of IPS undergraduates and alumni disappointed and outraged at the recent hiring of Richard Grenell, former Ambassador to Germany and former Acting Director of National Intelligence.

Though we hold great respect for the Institute for Politics and Strategy, our director, and our faculty and staff, we greatly disagree with the hiring of Richard Grenell. Inviting Grenell as a Senior Fellow would not only tarnish the reputation and credibility of IPS but hurt the greater Carnegie Mellon community.

Carnegie Mellon and Dietrich College boast of sharing the values of “inclusion, empathy, and compassion.” By inviting Richard Grenell into our institution, our administration is acting in direct opposition to these values. He has exhibited behaviors of insulting and belittling those in opposition, not practices of empathy or compassion. His approach to diplomacy sets a poor example to students who will soon engage in the international community, and his dangerous exhibition of extreme bias does not allow for the collaborative environment, well-suited for sharing ideas, that Carnegie Mellon desires.

We value diversity of political thought, but some voices detract from rather than contribute to a healthy political environment.

Who we hire shapes our internal discourse, students should feel that their faculty are supportive and open to hearing their voices. Welcoming Richard Grenell will damage the perception of the university and the program in the eyes of the world at large. Past controversies make it unlikely that his hiring will escape public notice, as he has proven himself as abrasive and divisive through his insults to Germany.

Beyond concerns about his career and character, Grenell’s hiring brings into question the issue of nepotism. Dr. Skinner shared that she knows Grenell through her time in the State Department working for President Trump. Given the director’s statement, it is impossible that this hiring was made impartially. Adding that Carnegie Mellon has enacted a hiring freeze since March, this decision reeks of disregard to other qualified applicants hoping for any position in Carnegie Mellon during this pandemic and difficult time.

To maintain the credibility, respectability, and prestige of IPS, we ask that the department begin with the following actions. The Institute for Politics and Strategy must:

1. Rescind its decision to welcome Richard Grenell as a Senior Fellow. As this petition along with backlash on IPS social media demonstrates, welcoming Grenell to IPS would negatively affect the credibility of IPS, damage trust between IPS students and its director, and hurt the greater CMU community.

2. Implement a hiring process for all positions in IPS that would make any form of nepotism and other issues impossible. The decision to hire Richard Grenell––someone who had worked closely with Dr. Skinner during her time in the State Department––appears to have happened behind closed doors, as CMU is currently on a hiring freeze. We therefore ask for a revamped hiring process for the department which would value credentials of potential hires with clear roles, as Grenell does not have a PhD, is not an established researcher, and was never given a clear role as instructor or researcher. Furthermore, we would like to know the rationale used to hire Grenell at such uncertain times.

3. Create a IPS Student Advisory Board in which undergraduate and masters students can have a say in major decisions from the department. With actions #1 and #2 in mind, we demand the creation of a committee in which students can represent themselves in the department when major decisions, like the egregious hiring of Grenell, are made. This committee should be composed of two students in each class along with two students from each graduate program.

We hold great respect and appreciation for IPS and our faculty, staff, lecturers, and advisors. However, this hiring decision is a break in the trust us students hold in our department to give us a safe, enriching learning environment. Please rescind this offer, and give students the transparency we deserve.