A group of Harvard students has launched a petition urging the university’s administration to revoke the degrees of Kayleigh McEnany, Ted Cruz and other Republicans who opposed the certification of electors for President-elect Joe Biden.
The petition asserts that McEnany, Cruz and others spread disinformation that led to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. capitol building.
McEnany was President Trump’s press secretary. Cruz is a U.S. senator from Texas who opposed the certification of Biden’s electors from Arizona and Pennsylvania. Both are Harvard graduates.
The student-led petition also criticizes Harvard graduate and U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), who signed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider overturning the election results.
“The campaign to subvert the outcome of the 2020 presidential election left five dead and nearly killed many more as armed, organized insurrectionists with Confederate flags and Nazi paraphernalia stormed the Capitol in search of members of Congress to kill or capture. Nationwide violence is expected in the weeks to come,” the petition says.
“Is Harvard University prepared to take a stand for representative democracy and against violent white supremacy?” the petition asks. “It’s no secret that over a dozen Harvard graduates worked hard to spread the disinformation and mistrust that created last Wednesday’s insurrection – from Representative Dan Crenshaw (HKS ‘17), who supported the December Texas lawsuit to invalidate the election, to Senator Ted Cruz (HLS ’97), one of the loudest claimants of fraud and a rare senator still objecting to the election certification after the violence at the Capitol, to White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany (HLS ’17), who dutifully denies the validity of the election.
“Harvard must revoke the degrees of alumni whose incendiary language and subversion of democratic processes – rooted in a history of white supremacist voter suppression – incited the violent insurrection on January 6,” the petition says. “This includes all who have used their platforms to deny the validity of the presidential election. They do not and should not represent a university committed to ‘strengthening democracy’ and ‘the advancement of justice.’”
A degree from Harvard is a “privilege, not a right,” the petition says.
“Harvard had no qualms about rescinding offers of admission to high school students because of racist activity online that did not reflect the University’s values. But holding teenagers accountable is easy. Harvard should have the will to hold adult insurrectionists to the same standards,” the petition concludes.
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, criticized the idea, calling it “chilling.”
“The revocation of degrees would result in immediate and likely successful court challenges. I cannot imagine a court allowing such an action to occur on this basis,” he wrote on his website. “... It is opportunism to use this tragedy to settle scores and purge opposing voices. The alternative is free speech. We can continue to engage each other in civil and respectful dialogue – the very antithesis of what occurred on January 6th. Universities could play a critical role in that dialogue but it will require a faith in free speech and ourselves that seems diminishing by the day.”
Revoking degrees, Turley wrote, “would send the message that any degree is subject to the shifting political winds of a university and that attaining a degree remains only tentative and subject to revocation by majority demand.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Maddie Meyer/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.