Since Joe Biden won the presidential election last week, officials who have worked under President Donald Trump have started their job hunt. But veteran lobbyists say White House staffers will not be welcome on K Street – the home of many lobbying companies and law firms – because Trump’s controversial presidency comes with public relations risks. Just look at Stephen Miller, a Trump adviser who marked his tenure by vehemently backing anti-immigration policies. I’m not sure any lobbying firm would want him in their office.
That does not mean Trump officials will be ostracized everywhere. As the administration comes to end, Trump officials could land at top public policy, international affairs and political science schools around the country – including GW. But universities should not be in the business of hiring people who were complicit in atrocious policies and opposition to science and integrity. Officials should hold members of the Trump administration accountable and reject them from positions at the University.
Trump officials should not be able to hide from their wrongdoing in our classrooms. Their failure to distance themselves from Trump’s divisiveness, racism and bigotry cannot be forgiven now that Trump has lost. But inevitably, Trump officials will try to distance themselves from his legacy. Already, Republican senators have started to distance themselves from Trump, while his support from Republican political leaders has waned. As Adolf Eichmann pled at Nuremberg that it was a “misfortune to become entangled in these atrocities,” Trump officials cannot be allowed to feign ignorance. Administrators should not take the bait.
White House officials are responsible for the implementation of policies that threatened democracy, tore families apart and endangered millions. While GW purports to be a top university in political science, it cannot justify hiring officials who worked to dismantle and undermine our democratic system. If GW claims to stand against Trump’s immigration policies, it cannot hire the officials who pushed to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy and put children in cages. If GW hopes for its faculty to be taken seriously in the fight against COVID-19, administrators cannot hire the officials who stayed silent while Trump called it a hoax. The University cannot oppose Trump’s policies and rhetoric while simultaneously hiring his staffers.
While the University should be a place for academic freedom through debate, it should not be a safe haven for those who have initiated or remained silent in the face of hate speech. Hiring Trump officials would undermine the mission and integrity of the University. GW is an institution that promotes science, while Trump officials have been complicit in denying its very existence. Denying science is not only dangerous for the planet and public health, it also undermines the work faculty have done to combat misinformation and promote scientific research.
Hiring Trump officials would allow them to escape from accountability. Administrators should not hire Trump staffers just because they have government work experience. They will then be able to use our lecture halls and classrooms to continue promoting a dangerous agenda – or rehabilitating their fractured images. The University should not help Trump’s staffers repair their reputations by letting them preach to college students.
Administrators should also be wary of the potential fallout from hiring Trump administration officials. At the University of Virginia, two professors resigned over the hiring of Marc Short, who was Trump’s White House director of legislative affairs. At Harvard University, alumni and students were outraged by the hiring of former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Students, alumni and faculty at GW are also likely to push back against hiring Trump officials, like when they protested an event that featured Betsy DeVos at the School of Media and Public Affairs. Administrators should recognize the consequences of hiring Trump officials and not make the mistake of angering the University community.
Allowing Trump officials to work for GW gives them a higher education seal of approval and a platform that allows them to dodge accountability, while undermining GW’s mission and integrity. For the past four years, White House staffers have helped to spread racism, bigotry and xenophobia – they cannot be allowed to hide in academia and merely move on.
Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, a senior majoring in political science and psychology, is the managing director and former opinions editor.
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