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No to Academic Normalization of Trump

Those who have served the current US president are necessarily tainted by the experience. While they should not be barred from speaking at universities, they should be accorded none of the trappings of institutional esteem such as fellowships, named lectures, and keynote speeches.

CAMBRIDGE – The University of Virginia recently faced a storm of protest after its Miller Center of Public Affairs appointed President Donald Trump’s former Director of Legislative Affairs, Marc Short, to a one-year position as Senior Fellow. Two faculty members severed ties with the center, and a petition to reverse the decision has gathered nearly 4,000 signatures. A similar protest erupted at my home institution last year, when Corey Lewandowski, a one-time campaign manager for Trump, was appointed a fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

The Trump administration confronts universities with a serious dilemma. On one hand, universities must be open to diverse viewpoints, including those that conflict with mainstream opinion or may seem threatening to specific groups. Students and faculty who share Trump’s viewpoint should be free to speak without censorship. Universities must remain fora for free inquiry and debate. Moreover, schools and institutes of public affairs must offer student and faculty opportunities to engage with the policymakers of the day.

On the other hand, there is the danger of normalizing and legitimizing what can only be described as an odious presidency. Trump violates on a daily basis the norms on which liberal democracy rests. 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.

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