Harvard removes lawmaker as adviser after vote fraud push

Elise Stefanik, backer of claims that fuelled Capitol riot, evicted from government school

January 12, 2021
Harvard University campus
Source: iStock

Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government expelled US representative Elise Stefanik from an advisory panel after she promoted false claims of electoral fraud that fuelled the attack on the US Capitol.

Ms Stefanik, who represents a district in northern New York state, was one of 147 Republicans who opposed the formal certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory. That crusade turned violent last week when thousands of its believers besieged the Capitol building at the urging of President Trump, leading to five deaths.

The dean of the Kennedy School, Douglas Elmendorf, announcing his removal of Ms Stefanik from the advisory panel of the school’s Institute of Politics, said he wanted to make clear he did not see his move as a rejection of her party or ideology.

Instead, Professor Elmendorf said in a statement, he could not accept Ms Stefanik’s “public assertions about voter fraud in November’s presidential election that have no basis in evidence”.

“These assertions and statements do not reflect policy disagreements, but bear on the foundations of the electoral process through which this country’s leaders are chosen,” Professor Elmendorf said.

Harvard is among many institutions in higher education and beyond that began taking action against such statements only after the violence at the Capitol, which included the death of one Capitol police officer and threats by the pro-Trump mob to kill opposing lawmakers.

As have many other Republicans, however, Ms Stefanik looked past the attempted overthrow of Mr Biden’s incoming government and suggested the action against her by Harvard represented a strain of political intolerance common in academia.

“The ivory tower’s march toward a monoculture of like-minded, intolerant liberal views demonstrates the sneering disdain for everyday Americans,” the congresswoman said in a statement, “and will instil a culture of fear for students who will understand that a conservative viewpoint will not be tolerated and will be silenced.”

Ms Stefanik graduated from Harvard in 2006 with a degree in government, and became in 2014 the youngest woman elected to the US Congress at the time.

While serving on the Kennedy School advisory panel, Ms Stefanik led criticisms in Congress of Harvard for imposing sanctions on undergraduate social organisations that allowed only single-gender memberships. Harvard retracted that policy last year after a US Supreme Court ruling restricted employers from taking actions considered discriminatory.

In her statement responding to Professor Elmendorf's decision, Ms Stefanik claimed victory in the matter and promised to persist in what she regarded as a campaign “for freedom of speech and freedom of thought on college campuses across America”.

paul.basken@timeshighereducation.com

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