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Top Democratic Communications Strategist Hired to Advise Harvard President Claudine Gay

Harvard Public Affairs and Communications, the University's public relations arm, is housed at 114 Mt. Auburn St.
Harvard Public Affairs and Communications, the University's public relations arm, is housed at 114 Mt. Auburn St. By Santiago A. Saldivar
By Miles J. Herszenhorn and Claire Yuan, Crimson Staff Writers

Stephanie Cutter, a leading Democratic political strategist, has served as a public relations consultant to Harvard President Claudine Gay since she was announced as the University’s next president in December 2022.

Harvard Public Affairs and Communications, the University’s public relations arm, hired Precision Strategies — a strategy and marketing media agency co-founded by Cutter — to assist HPAC with work related to the announcement of the University’s 30th president, according to Harvard spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain.

Precision Strategies, one of the most prominent Democratic consulting firms in the nation’s capital, was co-founded by Cutter in 2013 alongside two fellow former advisers to former U.S. President Barack Obama. The firm has worked with groups ranging from gun control nonprofit March For Our Lives to Bank of America and the National Football League.

A former adviser to several key Democratic politicians in Washington, Cutter has been described by Politico as one of the party’s “top strategists and crisis managers.”

In Congress, Cutter worked for former Senator Ted Kennedy ’54-’56 and former Senator Harry Reid during his time as minority leader. In addition to working for Obama, Cutter also served as an executive producer for President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Cutter’s work with Gay came ahead of a summer that saw Harvard’s admissions practices face challenges from both Republican and Democratic politicians. Gay officially assumed the Harvard presidency two days after the Supreme Court ruled against the University in a case that effectively struck down affirmative action in college admissions.

According to Swain, Harvard occasionally engages outside vendors to provide support and capacity for the University’s communications and marketing work, including hiring GCI Health — a health care communications company — to help with the development of the student mental health “We’re All Human” campaign in October 2022.

Gay will be inaugurated in a ceremony steeped in tradition in Tercentenary Theatre on Sept. 29, just over nine months after her announcement as the University’s 30th president. The ceremony is set to feature a host of storied rituals — Gay will receive the University’s keys, seals, and charter before sitting briefly in the notoriously uncomfortable Holyoke chair.

HPAC — which is responsible for the University’s communications and lobbying — is working with the University Marshal’s office to plan and publicize the event. The ceremony, which will begin at 2 p.m., is open to all Harvard University ID holders.

—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at miles.herszenhorn@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @mherszenhorn or on Threads @mileshersz.

—Staff writer Claire Yuan can be reached at claire.yuan@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @claireyuan33.

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