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Harvard students launch petition to ban Trump administration officials from campus

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Trump officials slam ‘McCarthyist’ petition from Harvard students to BAN administration officials from teaching, speaking or visiting the university

  • Students from Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences drafted petition 
  • It came up against opposition last week from students in other schools 
  • The wording has since been changed to demand that Trump administration officials be held ‘accountable’ before engaging with the university 
  • Trump officials and Republican senators slammed the ‘McCarthyist’ proposal

By Charlotte Mitchell For Mailonline

Published: | Updated:

A petition to prevent Trump administration officials from visiting Harvard University has sparked debate among students a week after it was drafted.

Students from Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences drafted the petition which has enjoyed less support at the university’s Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Business School, according to Fox News, which suggested the opposition prompted a change of wording. 

The document initially proposed an outright ban on Trump administration officials speaking, teaching or attending the university but now calls for such officials to be held ‘accountable’ before undertaking these roles, Fox News reported, citing ‘people with direct knowledge of the matter.’

A petition to prevent Trump administration officials from visiting Harvard University has sparked debate among students a week after it was drafted [File photo]

‘A few other conservative students and I made the point that we can’t just target Republicans, that isn’t what the Kennedy School stands for,’ student Carter Estes told Fox Business. 

He added that the university has hosted ‘a number of controversial guests over the years’ and said that any guidelines should ‘apply to every speaker, not single out Trump appointees.’ 

Despite opposition from some schools within the university, the revised petition was reportedly approved by students at the Harvard’s Medical School and Divinity School. 

The petition comes as universities in the United States and elsewhere are grappling with warring expectations of those who want these centres of learning to be a ‘safe space’ and others who argue that challenging existing view points and encouraging debate is one of the main functions of a university.

Harvard told Fox News it is aware of the petition but had no further comment.

Students from Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences drafted the petition which has enjoyed less support at the university’s Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Business School, according to Fox News

For the petition to be enacted, student councils from each school need to vote on the measure. It would then be sent to school administrators who would make the final decision on whether to make it school policy.

For the petition to be enacted, student councils from each school need to vote on the measure, Fox reported.

It would then be sent to school administrators who would make the final decision on whether to make it school policy.

Alan Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School described the petition as ‘new McCarthyism’.

The long-time defender of free speech told Fox Business that he would ‘challenge any ban’, adding that if the petition was approved he would represent pro-bono any Trump official seeking to visit the campus.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany – herself a Harvard Law graduate – said she hoped the school administrators would quash the petition.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany – herself a Harvard Law graduate – has said she hoped the school administrators would quash the petition. Pictured: McEnany speaks to Fox News

‘Academic communities should be bastions of free speech. I will happily walk back on campus and challenge this,’ she said.

Republican Senator from Nebraska Ben Sasse echoed McEnany’s comments, saying: 

‘Universities not only shouldn’t be afraid of free and open debate – they should welcome it. The whole point of education is to engage ideas you didn’t already hold.’ 

He likened the students behind the petition as ‘ideological extremists’ who ‘aren’t willing to hear their opponents out,’ describing such behaviour as ‘cowardly.’

‘Many principled liberal professors are adults who know that healthy institutions don’t give in to temper tantrums,’ he said.

‘Let’s hope some of them stand up.’

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