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Sharpening Critiques of Trump's Policies, Faust Talks Federal Policy at Bloomberg Event

University President Drew G. Faust addressing the Harvard Alumni Association in 2016.
University President Drew G. Faust addressing the Harvard Alumni Association in 2016. By Helen Y. Wu
By Claire E. Parker, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: February 28, 2017 at 7:46 p.m.

University President Drew G. Faust traveled to Washington D.C. Monday for the second time this year, promising at a media roundtable to continue lobbying lawmakers on Harvard’s key policy priorities under the Trump administration.

Faust outlined these priorities—maintaining research funding, defending the University endowment’s tax-exempt status, and protecting students and faculty impacted by President Donald Trump’s immigration policies—to members of the media gathered at Bloomberg News’ Washington Bureau Monday afternoon. Faust first identified the three policy areas as the foci of her political advocacy at a December faculty meeting.

Faust’s trip to Washington, D.C. Monday is a sign she is indeed “ramping up” advocacy efforts as she said she would in December. She met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in January, and plans to travel to Washington to meet with members of Congress again in late April.

While the total amount of research funding Harvard receives annually has increased, federal funding has steadily declined since 2009—a trend Faust called “devastating” at the Bloomberg meeting. Harvard receives nearly $600 million from the federal government, primarily from the National Institute of Health.

“NIH is a major focus of concern for us,” Faust told journalists.

She also reiterated the importance of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a government agency Trump may defund.

“The NEH is a critical source of support for the humanities and spreading the humanities beyond the academy and supporting individuals who are going into a field that is being increasingly marginalized in the consciousness of American life,” Faust said.

Referring to Trump by name—which Faust has refrained from doing in her public statements responding to his policies—she expressed concern about the budget blueprint his administration sent to federal agencies Monday.

“When we look at the nature of the budget that Trump is said to be considering, with huge increases in defense spending and no reductions in entitlements, it’s not clear where the kind of support would come from’’ to maintain research funding, the Boston Globe reported Faust said.

Faust criticized the Trump administration more pointedly at the event Monday than she has in the past.

“This administration seems unpredictable in many ways,’’ Faust told assembled journalists, according to the Globe. “It doesn’t seem tied to the traditional notions of the role of government. And so [the new administration’s] understanding of this long relationship between federal government and higher education is unclear to us.’’

Faust also told attendees at the Bloomberg event she is “very concerned” for the “safety and welfare of our students, our undocumented students, immigrants who are students and faculty and those who come to conferences and bring international perspectives that are key to learning and discovery.”

Since assuming office on Jan. 20, Trump has passed a series of executive orders aimed at deporting undocumented immigrants and restricting entry to the United States for refugees and immigrants from select predominantly-Muslim countries.

Harvard has around 40 undocumented students at the College according to some estimates and about 10,000 international students and scholars at the University. At least four Harvard affiliates were unable to enter the United States because of Trump’s policies.

At Monday’s meeting, Faust voiced apprehension that a climate hostile to immigrants might detract from Harvard’s ability to attract international faculty members.

“Who are we going to lose if enormously talented people don’t feel welcome here?” she asked.

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