Rescind Governor Snyder's Fellowship at Harvard (Harvard Students and Alumni Petition)

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Rescind Governor Snyder's Fellowship at Harvard (Harvard Students and Alumni Petition)

This petition made change with 53 supporters!
Aaron Mukerjee started this petition to Jeffrey Liebman - Director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government and

We, the undersigned students and alumni of Harvard, many of whom are also proud alumni of the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) or Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, write today to urge you to reverse your decision to bestow a prestigious fellowship at the Taubman Center upon former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. As you are well-aware, Governor Snyder was directly responsible for the decisions that poisoned the mostly Black residents of Flint, including hundreds of children. 

A report by the University of Michigan School of Public Health concluded that Governor Snyder "bears significant legal responsibility" for the Flint water crisis.[1] State and local prosecutors are still investigating Governor Snyder’s role in the Flint Water Crisis and have  recently seized his state-owned cell phone.[2] Governor Snyder not only lied to the people of Flint, but he also refused to comply with a House Oversight investigation into what he knew and when he knew it. To quote the 11-year-old who wrote President Obama a letter begging him to help Flint, Mari Copeny (aka @LittleMissFlint): “Harvard has to be smarter than this.”[3] 

Little Miss Flint is right. The Taubman Center, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard University should be smarter than this. Professor Liebmann has responded to emails calling on him to rescind this fellowship by saying, “At the Kennedy School, we aim to learn from both the successes and failures of public officials. Having public officials on campus allows our students to ask those officials hard questions, and we believe that it prepares our students to have more successes and fewer failures when they become leaders.” 

There are at least three major issues with this statement. First, there is no evidence to suggest that Governor Snyder believes his time in office was a failure. In fact, in the Taubman Center’s press release, he is quoted as saying, “I look forward to sharing my experiences in helping take Michigan to national leadership in job creation, improved government performance, and civility.”[4] 

Second, if Governor Snyder refused to truthfully answer the “hard questions” put forth by  Congress while under oath, it is inconceivable that he would truthfully answer the hard questions asked by Harvard students.

Third, if this is a genuine attempt to defend the indefensible, it runs directly counter to a statement made two years ago by Dean Elmendorf after HKS invited and then rescinded an offer to make Chelsea Manning a visiting fellow at the Institute of Politics. Dean Elmendorf said, “I see more clearly now that many people view a Visiting Fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations. In particular, I think we should weigh, for each potential visitor, what members of the Kennedy School community could learn from that person’s visit against the extent to which that person’s conduct fulfills the values of public service to which we aspire.”[5]

Dean Elmendorf is right that granting someone a fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School is “honorific.” He is also right that HKS should weigh the fellow’s potential value to HKS students against the person’s conduct to determine whether to award a fellowship. If this is the calculus that was made in deciding whether to invite Governor Snyder, then the decision to honor him is not only an insult to the people of Flint, but also to the students at the Harvard Kennedy School who you perceive as so lacking in a basic understanding of how government should work that they could learn important lessons from a man like Governor Snyder. For the sake of the integrity of the Center, the School, and the University that you oversee, we urge you to reconsider your decision. 

Citations:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Snyder#cite_note-3

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/03/us/rick-snyder-flint-water-crisis.html

[3] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/07/01/harvard-michigan-governor-rick-snyder-social-media-backlash-flint-water-crisis/1615960001/

[4] https://mailchi.mp/18805ea37b37/governor-rick-snyder-named-senior-research-fellow-at-harvard-kennedy-schools-taubman-center-for-state-and-local-government?e=deba6a6e9f

[5] https://www.hks.harvard.edu/announcements/statement-dean-elmendorf-regarding-invitation-chelsea-manning-be-visiting-fellow?utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=hks-twitter&utm_source=twitter

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