More than 1,000 current students and alumni of Harvard Business School signed a letter denouncing Stephen K. Bannon, a 1985 Business School graduate and President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for chief strategist.
The letter, published in the New York Times, was written by Lauren M. Rourke and Ali Huberlie, who both graduated in 2015. The letter opposes Trump’s appointment of Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor, citing him as “one of the chief architects of the alt-right movement, a movement that preaches white nationalism, racism, misogyny, and hatred.” Bannon is the executive chairman of Breitbart News, a right-wing media company.
Rourke said in an interview the decision to write the letter came after Bannon’s appointment last week. While the authors said they felt parts of Trump’s platform in the aftermath of the election were agreeable, the business tycoon’s decision to involve Bannon in the administration worried them.
The letter had 650 signatures at the time of publishing on Nov. 18, according to Huberlie. Now, two days later, that number has more than doubled to 1,480.
“[Bannon] is not a man we can find common ground with,” Rourke said, adding that Trump’s claims to be President for “all Americans” are negated by Bannon’s appointment.
Specifically, the letter points to the “sinister” rhetoric of Breitbart—founded in 2007 with the stated purpose of challenging the “liberal media bias.”
“Breitbart frequently publishes articles that disparage women,” the authors of the letter wrote. The letter also blasts the media company’s attacks on “prominent women leaders,” including Sheryl K. Sandberg ’91, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer and Business School alumna; the outlet published an article about her undergraduate senior thesis.
The appointment of Bannon to his new position “legitimizes and emboldens these voices— those of white nationalists and anti-feminists—the letter reads.
Rourke said the original edition of the letter, which was cut short in publishing, included a call for the Business School to respond.
“HBS frequently invites alumni to come speak with students, and we have had controversial leaders speak before, but Steve Bannon is not someone who should ever be invited to campus,” she said.
Huberlie said the larger goal of this letter was to remind HBS graduates that they have a they have a voice they can use “when they see something that is wrong.”
“Graduates from Harvard Business School are fortunate in that we can speak out without facing a lot of the consequences that many people do,” she said, adding that Bannon is someone “completely contrary to the values of HBS.”
Rourke said they sent the letter out in an online Google form to friends, asking them to sign it if they agreed with the spirit of the letter. She said they were hoping for 100 signatures and were “blown away by the response” as friends spread the letter to coworkers and other peers.
The signatures span 47 class years of Business School women, dating as far back as the MBA class of 1963.
—Staff writer Julia E. DeBenedictis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @julia_debene.