There’s been something of a revolving door going on inside the Trump administration, with various staff members coming and going at a rate at least equal to (if not surpassing) most other modern presidencies. And as with past administrations, those departing the White House need to find new employment. Several of them have followed the paths of their predecessors and taken positions in academia. These include Marc Short, who took a position with the University of Virginia, and Corey Lewandowski, who was named a Fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics.
Both of these appointments resulted in protests, particularly by liberal faculty members who didn’t feel that anyone associated with the Trump White House should sully the good name of those institutes of higher learning. But what to do about it? One of Lewandowski’s new colleagues at Harvard has a modest proposal to address this crisis. Dani Rodrik, a Turkish born economist and Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard, penned an op-ed in the Boston Globe suggesting that the academic world needs to stop offering jobs, fellowships or any sort of honors to anyone who was in any way associated with the Trump administration.
Of course, Professor Rodrik takes great pains to assure you that he’s not trying to stifle free speech. Perish the thought! He wants conservative voices, including those from the Trump White House, to be able to speak or show up on campus. A failure to do so would give the appearance of heavy-handed suppression of thought.
The Trump administration confronts universities with a serious dilemma. On one hand, universities must be open to diverse viewpoints, including those that conflict with mainstream opinion or may seem threatening to specific groups. Students and faculty who share Trump’s viewpoint should be free to speak without censorship. Universities must remain for free inquiry and debate. Moreover, schools and institutes of public affairs must offer student and faculty opportunities to engage with the policy makers of the day.
So far, so good. But what is this “dilemma” of which you speak, and how do you propose to address it? Here’s where we get to the meat of Rodrik’s very one-sided demands.(Emphasis added)
On the other hand, there is the danger of normalizing and legitimizing what can only be described as an odious presidency…
Those who serve with him are necessarily tainted by the experience. Trump’s close associates and political appointees are his enablers — regardless of their personal merits and how much they try to disassociate themselves from Trump’s utterances…
The most important principle to uphold is the distinction between hearing someone and honoring someone. Trump’s immediate circle and senior appointees should be welcome for discussion and debate. They should be treated in a civil manner when they show up. But they should not be accorded the degree of respect or deference that their seniority and government positions would normally merit. We do not, after all, have a normal administration that can be served honorably.
This means no honorific titles (fellow, senior fellow), no named lectures, no keynote speeches headlining conferences or events. While individual faculty members and student groups should be free to invite Trump appointees to speak on campus, as a rule such invitations should not be issued by senior university officers.
There you have it. A call from a senior figure from Harvard to establish what can only be honestly described as a blacklist. It doesn’t matter what the person’s individual opinions, qualifications or record may include. Simply having served anywhere in the White House or any of the Cabinet departments under President Trump marks one as being “tainted by the experience” and they should be disqualified from employment or honors in the academic community. For the sin of having answered the call to serve your government, you should henceforth be treated like a black person trying to get a drink from the whites-only water fountain during the early part of the 20th century.
I assume that the professor would include people such as UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has amassed a formidable record of both domestic governance and international diplomacy credentials while frequently contradicting positions taken by the President. Too bad, Ambassador Haley. Having served in this “odious” administration, you should now be barred for life from any form of service in academia.
The sad part is that this proposal will doubtless be taken seriously across much of the higher education spectrum. While perhaps not being publicly or officially adopted, it’s not hard to see this attitude taking hold. It’s discrimination, pure and simple. This is ironically one of the things that the professor accuses Donald Trump and his supporters of demonstrating. We have a serious problem in our nation’s universities and it’s not one that’s going to change without a generational shift in attitude. Perhaps we could start by eliminating the tenure system.