Donation Nation

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Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a Harvard Law school professor Emerita and Cambridge resident, may not be leading the polls, but she sure is winning over the wallets of Harvard affiliates. A recent report showed that Harvard affiliates have given Warren more than $42,000 — more than twice the donations given to South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete P.M. Buttigieg ’04 and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who have garnered $20,000 and $19,900, respectively. Harvard affiliates have also donated $11,000 to Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and just $250 to former Secretary of Housing and Development Julián Castro.

While this commitment of Harvard affiliates to political engagement is admirable, we urge Harvard affiliates to find ways of contributing to the political process that go beyond donations.

Political engagement can take many forms, including campaigning, canvassing, and encouraging others to do the same. It includes mobilizing others to vote, attending town hall meetings, joining political organizations, and volunteering to work at polling stations. It is asking uncomfortable questions of ourselves and others about the nature of what we believe and how those beliefs affect the public discourse around us.

It’s also worth recognizing that while these contributions are substantial and meaningful, the financial influence of Harvard affiliates on the political process goes far beyond these small scale donations. For example, in 2016 the fifth largest individual political donor in the country was Harvard Law School graduate Paul E. Singer ‘69, who donated nearly $2 million to Republican candidates. Singer is only one example. The influence of Harvard affiliates on campaign finance is a powerful and arguably pernicious force at times.


We continue to believe that money has an outsized influence on the American political process. Large political donations amass the potential to unfairly amplify the voices and influence of the wealthy, directly contradicting the principles of a democracy. A democratic government best serves its people when their interests, in all of their diversity, are fully and equally represented regardless of their bank balance.

Given Harvard’s ongoing ties to the political system, we need to reflect deeply on its role in constructing our democratic process. We can always strive to be more ethical contributor to the political process. So, instead of just donating money to candidates, donate your time, your principles, your expertise — your dedication to upholding the democracy.

Oh yes, and vote.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.