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Harvard's Season of Digesting

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

“Yesterday, we all had to digest the results of the election.” These were the words of the Harvard Law School’s Dean of Students to the entire law school’s student body the morning following the 2016 Presidential Election. Let it be noted that the word “digest” has a negative connotation and is colloquially used when describing how to receive criticism or bad news. But this, sadly, is the current nature of the higher education environment where liberal-biased rhetoric and hypocritical behavior is on full display. “Every four years in the United States, we exercise the democratic right and privilege of participating in the electoral process for the presidency. That process is always messy and full of tumult, but this year it was marked by unusual divisiveness, acrimony and hurtful rhetoric.” This is an excerpt from an email written by Martha Minow—the Dean of Harvard Law School—entitled “Reflecting on this moment.” One can only wonder if the two emails just referred to would have been written and shared with the future leaders of America had Hillary Clinton won the election. My gut instinct tells me “no.”

College campuses across the country were shocked to see the results of the election, and the reactions can certainly be perceived as more shocking. Professors organizing marches, canceling classes, and making exams optional or canceling them outright. In order to help students cope with the seemingly traumatic result of President Trump’s victory, it was reported that the University of Michigan Law School announced a “post-election self-care” event with the opportunity to partake in “coloring sheets” and “Legos.” Ironically, those who typically advocate what are perceived as “minority views” in the general scheme of the United States are those same people who have made many Trump supporters feel unwelcome across universities and colleges.

Graduate students of Harvard have formed the “Resistance School,” which is a “free four-week practical training program that will sharpen the tools [needed to] fight back” against President Trump and his agenda. While it is not an official course of Harvard University or any of its various schools, it is worth noting that some sessions are “taught” or led by Harvard lecturers. It is commendable that students are taking up an effort which they believe in and they are expressing their beliefs—this is America and free speech is a core tenet of our Constitution. A chief concern is that these sessions are held in Harvard classrooms (in addition to streaming online). Would there have been extreme media backlash if a similar group (with Harvard-paid lecturers and the usage of Harvard classroom space), but targeted towards President Barack Obama, had formed a “school” of this kind? Again, I will go with my intuition and say “yes.”

So, for those students who support President Trump or any of his plans, how do they feel free to express themselves when the higher education system and its employers have seemingly come together to alienate others—an action which liberals (and most rational people) have been opposing for years? It is safe to say that there is not much hope for Trump-supporting students unless action is undertaken by administrators to create a balanced community, not one that further exacerbates the bubble which surrounds a multitude of college campuses and their constituents.

It is no coincidence that Sally Yates (the former Deputy Attorney General of the United States and the Acting Attorney General for the first 10 days of President Trump’s presidency) has been selected to serve as the speaker for the Class Day ceremonies at Harvard Law School on May 24, 2017. Yates was fired by the Trump administration after she instructed the staff from the Department of Justice to not enforce the executive order on travel and immigration. Her opinions as to why it was an unlawful executive order deserve to be shared and it is every bit her right to do so, but it can be strongly assumed that Trump supporters—whether they be students, parents, family and friends—will not feel very welcomed on what is supposed to be a happy culmination to three years of enduring and challenging work. So much for a safe space.

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