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Harvard Alumni Petition Senators to Vote Against Kavanaugh's Confirmation

The United States Capitol houses both chambers of Congress.
The United States Capitol houses both chambers of Congress. By Caroline S. Engelmayer
By Simone C. Chu and Jamie D. Halper, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard alumni from across the University are banding together to call on fellow Harvard graduates in the Senate to vote against Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Alumni have circulated at least two separate letters in recent days — one addressed to the 13 Harvard alumni who currently serve in the Senate, and one specifically to Sen. Ben Sasse ’94 (R-Neb.) from his College classmates.

Two women have accused Kavanaugh — who President Donald Trump nominated to the country’s highest court over the summer — of sexual assault. The FBI is now pursuing a week-long investigation into the allegations before the Senate proceeds with a vote.

The letter to Sasse, which was posted to Sept. 27, had gathered more than 250 signatures as of Monday evening. The open letter to the 13 senators, hosted on a Google document, had garnered almost more than 250 signatures as of Monday evening.

The petition to Sasse was primarily circulated through the Class of 1994 alumni Facebook group, though organizer Aren R. Cohen ’94 said she and others also distributed the petition via emails and direct messages to alumni.

The text of the petition points to Sasse’s 2017 book, “The Vanishing American Adult,” which argues that young Americans are ill-equipped to face the demands of the global economy — and puts forward a vision for raising active and engaged citizens.

“Rather than being ‘a coward or a weakling, a bully, a shirk, or a prig,’ as an elected official, we urge you to demonstrate the bravery and commitment to the American democratic principles you have so often celebrated on the Senate Judiciary Committee by citing ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ civics,” the letter reads, quoting from the book.

Cohen said she hopes that Sasse “can be a part of the solution, not the problem.”

Cohen added in an email, “The Class of ’94 were students together. Now we're the grown-ups in the room. Senator Sasse is concerned about the state of adulthood in America, so I thought the Class of 1994 could encourage him to be an adult and a patriot since this political environment looks more and more like a children's sandbox.”

Sasse’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Beth A. Johnston ’93, who penned the letter to the 13 Harvard alumni in the Senate, said “Veritas” — Harvard’s motto — was a driving theme in their message to the legislators.

“Obviously when we’re trying to make a direct connection in terms of Harvard, we immediately thought of ‘Veritas’ and the question of the fact that we did not feel that Judge Kavanaugh had been as truthful or as forthcoming as he could have been in his hearing with the senators,” she said.

That letter, dated Sept. 30, bears signatures from a number of Harvard classes and schools, with the College Class of 1993 comprising a majority as of Monday evening.

The letter charges that Kavanaugh was “evasive and misleading in much of his testimony to the US Senate about a range of issues” during an explosive hearing Thursday. It urges those who have not already opposed Kavanaugh’s placement on the court to do so.

“Other candidates unquestionably exist who can be both more forthcoming and more balanced,” the letter reads.

The alumni letters come as students on Harvard’s campus have organized in recent weeks to bar Kavanaugh from teaching at the Law School, as he has as a visiting lecturer since 2008.

Harvard Law School informed students Monday evening that Kavanaugh will not return to teach in January 2019.

—Staff writer Simone C. Chu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @simonechu_.

—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jamiedhalper.

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