When President Donald Trump took office in January, a sense of crisis gripped students and administrators on campus. Trump’s unexpected victory prompted many, including University President Drew G. Faust, to increase advocacy efforts around political issues affecting Harvard affiliates.
Hours after Trump issued an executive order closing America’s borders to seven predominantly Muslim countries in January, more than 150 Harvard affiliates staged an “emergency protest.” University administrators, including Faust, criticized the ban and Harvard soon filed amicus briefs against it. When Trump signed the second iteration of his travel ban in March, Harvard affiliates again took to the streets in protest and the Harvard International Office counseled those affected.
On multiple occasions, Faust traveled to Washington to meet with lawmakers from both parties, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, and Vice President Mike Pence. Faust voiced concerns about protections for undocumented students, the tax-exempt status of the University’s endowment, and federal research funding.
In September, campus activism spiked when Trump repealed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that allowed undocumented youth to legally live and work in the United States. Hundreds rallied in Tercentenary Theatre and 31 professors were arrested during a protest in Harvard Square.
In November, a new threat to University priorities loomed: a Republican tax plan that would tax returns on Harvard’s endowment and that threatened to nix tax-free tuition status for graduate students. Faust named the Republican tax plan the University’s top lobbying priority and graduate students held a phone bank to lobby lawmakers to keep their tuition waivers tax-free.
When Trump signed the tax overhaul into law, graduate students were relieved to find that the tuition provision had been removed—but the University will likely pay tens of millions of dollars annually in an endowment tax Faust called “unprecedented.” In an emailed statement to The Crimson, Faust wrote that Harvard’s tax-related lobbying efforts are far from over.
Much of future advocacy, however, will fall to Faust’s successor after June 2018, the month Faust is slated to step down as University president.