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If Trump Wins, Harvard Should Ignore Him

By Julian J. Giordano
By M. Austen Wyche, Crimson Opinion Writer
M. Austen Wyche ’27, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Canaday Hall.

The United States is on the prospect of electing a twice-impeached and many times-indicted politician as the 47th president of the United States.

In light of the threat Donald J. Trump’s reelection would pose to the stability of democracy and civil rights, it’s easy to miss another item on his hit list: higher education.

The former president has pledged to heavily tax the endowments of large universities like Harvard in order to create an online “American Academy,” which he’s framed as an alternative to the schools “turning our students into communists and terrorists.”

Speaking to The Crimson about what this means for Harvard, Government professor Steven Levitsky predicted that the University will cave to political pressure, choosing someone uncontroversial — likely, a moderate white man — as former president Claudine Gay’s successor to appease conservative critics.

They should not.

In this upcoming search process, the Harvard Corporation must choose a president with the will, might, and passion to defend the institution of higher education and its values. Harvard is facing internal turmoil, attacks on DEI, and questions regarding antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other grave threats to student well-being.

The next president should be ready to address these concerns. But these concerns cannot dictate our next president.

Caving to external political pressure when choosing the next president would violate principles of scholarship, belonging, and truth. Setting the precedent for a politically chosen president would undermine Harvard’s commitment to its fundamental values and its ability to be a catalyst for innovation and research.

The mission of Harvard University is to “advance new ideas and promote enduring knowledge.” We don’t need a president to be a field-leading scholar to attain that goal.

Throughout history, this institution has affected our society through innovation. From Jennifer Doudna pioneering CRISPR gene editing to Claudia Goldin’s award-winning research on the gender pay gap, Harvard affiliates have made profound impacts on a number of our society’s practices.

At least as valuable as research experience in a leader is representation and true devotion to diverse scholarship. Despite the controversy surrounding her scholarship, President Gay brought extensive administrative experience to the role and provided important representation to many students on campus.

While the ongoing congressional investigation into antisemitism on campus must not be ignored, we cannot allow the unfair attacks lodged by conservative critics against DEI to cause us to deviate from our commitment to diversity.

A potential Trump administration re-do would be unpredictable and unprecedented. Harvard and other private universities would suffer losses under some of Trump’s proposed policies.

Still, Harvard can survive. In fact, they’ve sent a clear message to those targeting the University: prepare for battle.

Harvard has taken a number of defensive measures to protect the institution against right-wing attacks on higher education. Just last week, The Crimson learned that the University had retained former Deputy Attorney General, Sally Q. Yates, to represent Harvard in the congressional antisemitism investigation. Her firm, King & Spalding, also employs former Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who worked under the Trump administration for two years.

Yates and Rosenstein seem to make King & Spalding a strategic pick. Still, to prepare for the oncoming attacks on higher education requires more than a good choice of attorney. Harvard must continue repairing its image, strive to limit turmoil on campus, and recruit allies across the political spectrum to counteract conservative educational proposals. Through these steps, Harvard will prepare for the onslaught of policy changes that may occur.

No matter who the next president is, higher education will remain under attack. The assault on elite universities is not new, and it will likely continue for decades. To weather them, it is in the best interest of the Harvard community to select a president who will move our institution forward — not temper criticism from outside forces.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the University had retained former Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates in the week preceding its publication. In fact, The Crimson had merely learned that she had been retained in that week.

M. Austen Wyche ’27, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Canaday Hall.

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