Harvard prof: Universities should not 'respect' Trump officials

A Harvard University professor says universities should not give “respect or deference” to Trump administration officials.

Harvard professor Dani Rodrik, in an op-ed for The Boston Globe, calls Trump’s “shameful presidency” a “stain” universities should reject honoring, declaring that administration officials “should not be accorded the degree of respect or deference that their seniority and government positions would normally merit.”

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While Rodrik concedes that universities should “be open to diverse viewpoints,” he has an issue with “normalizing and legitimizing...an odious presidency.”

“Trump violates on a daily basis the norms on which liberal democracy rests,” Rodrik claims. “He undermines freedom of the media and independence of the judiciary, upholds racism and sectarianism, and promotes prejudice. He blithely utters one falsehood after another.”

Citing the controversy over the University of Virginia’s appointment of former Trump advisor Marc Short to a senior fellow position, Rodrik criticizes UVA for expressing positive sentiments about anyone with ties to Trump.

“Trump’s close associates and political appointees are his enablers—regardless of their personal merits and how much they try to disassociate themselves from Trump’s utterances,” the professor adds. “Qualities like intelligence, effectiveness, integrity, and collegiality—words used by Miller Center Director William J. Antholis to justify Short’s appointment—have little to commend them when they are deployed to advance an illiberal political agenda.”

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The economics professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government goes on to identify the “illiberal” political agenda of Trump and his supporters as a “stain” which “covers economic policy makers.”

Rodrik argues that Trump’s cabinet members and “high ranking” officials “deserve opprobrium not merely because they hold cranky views on, say, the trade deficit or economic relations with China, but also, and more importantly, because their continued service makes them fully complicit in Trump’s behavior.”

“The most important principle to uphold is the distinction between hearing someone and honoring someone,” Rodrik points out. “Trump’s immediate circle and senior appointees should be welcome for discussion and debate. They should be treated in a civil manner when they show up.”

However, Rodrik insists that “they should not be accorded the degree of respect or deference that their seniority and government positions would normally merit,” arguing that “We do not, after all, have a normal administration that can be served honorably.”

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Although Rodrik claims to believe in free speech and allowing a variety of ideas, he tempers that support by suggesting that while “individual faculty members and student groups should be free to invite Trump appointees to speak on campus, as a rule such invitations should not be issued by senior university officers.”

“Students and faculty who sympathize with Trump may perceive such practices as discriminatory,” Rodrik admits. “But there is no conflict between encouraging free speech and exchange of views, which these rules are meant to support, and the university making its own values clear.”

Rodrik recommends that universities’ “engagement [should] be carefully calibrated, with not even a semblance of honor or recognition bestowed on those serving an administration that so grossly violates liberal democratic norms.”

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Rodrik’s op-ed comes shortly after the University of Virginia (UVA) received harsh criticism following its decision to appoint former Trump official, Marc Short, as a “senior fellow” with the Miller Center, a nonpartisan UVA affiliate that studies political discourse and policy, with a particular emphasis on the presidency.

Two UVA professors have publically resigned from their positions at the Miller Center to protest the appointment, and over 4,100 students have signed a petition urging UVA to not hire Short, claiming he represents an administration that “has directly harmed our community and to this day attacks the institutions vital to a free society.”

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