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Revoke their Degrees
                 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.
Is Harvard University prepared to take a stand for representative democracy and
against violent white supremacy?
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. 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 wide body of evidence, including studies from Harvard researchers,
suggests that societies cannot recover from civil strife without a process for holding
violent actors accountable. Communities that eschew justice in favor of “moving on” fall
victim to violence once more because the perpetrators never experienced
consequences for their actions. So it is unsurprising that a growing chorus of Harvard
faculty members like HKS Professor Juliette Kayyem has demanded accountability from
the Trump administration on both moral and practical grounds. But what of the Bacow
administration? Are those who demanded that Republicans have the courage to
impeach the President prepared to exhibit the same courage within their own
After Wednesday’s insurrection, Government professor Ryan Enos and HKS
Student Body President Diego Garcia Blum both renewed demands that the University
pledge not to invite implicated political figures for speaking engagements or teaching
positions. This is an important first step, as is Harvard Kennedy School Dean Doug
Elmendorf’s welcome decision to remove Representative Elise Stefanik (College ’06)
from the Institute of Politics. However, banning someone from a committee or campus
because they incited a violent attempt to overthrow the U.S. government is the least the
University can do; it still grants them the benefits of their Harvard degree everywhere
outside of Cambridge. Those like Rep. Stefanik, who will wear a ban from Harvard as
a badge of honor, may be less sanguine about a career without their B.A or J.D. Revoke
their degrees.
There is long-standing institutional anxiety that penalizing alumni will chill open
discourse on campus. Harvard should be confident in its ability to expose students to
diverse viewpoints without empowering the instigators of a violent, racist revanchist
movement. There should be little concern of a cascading “slippery slope” of degrees
revoked - unless more alumni choose to encourage armed insurrection in the future. As
Prof. Enos writes, avoiding a role in the armed overthrow of your own government is not
a difficult standard to meet.
Accountability is not a partisan demand because the validity of armed
insurrection is not a partisan issue. Voices from the right and the left must always be
welcome, but the acceptability of violence in politics should not be up for debate at
Harvard. An absolutist commitment to the free exchange of ideas in this moment
resembles a commitment to treating white supremacist uprisings as “politics as usual”
and maintaining a dangerous culture of impunity. This cannot be the position Harvard
wants to be remembered for at this pivotal moment in American history. 
The violence on Capitol Hill is not an isolated incident, and it will not be the last if
institutions like Harvard continue to allow white supremacy to go unchallenged. The
preemenence of white supremacy was on display among protestors
carrying confederate flags and wearing Nazi symbols, reaffirmed by police officers
who met Black protesters with riot gear and live ammunition but welcomed white
supremacists with selfies and warm embraces, and immortalized by politicians who
continue to label BLM protesters as thugs and criminals while describing Capitol Hill
insurrectionists as patriots and American heroes.
Harvard values democracy, equality, and the rule of law. Does it value them
enough to hold its own alumni accountable for the most flagrant attack on these
principles in recent history?
 A Harvard degree is a privilege, not a right. 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.
Add your name here to the petition here.
Harrison Mann HKS ‘21
Samantha Kahn HKS ‘22
Darold Cuba HKS ‘21
Camila Thorndike HKS ‘20
Crystal Collier HKS ‘21