A petition circulating at Harvard University to prevent Trump administration officials from stepping foot on campus is getting mixed reviews from a range of students, showing that not all those attending the prestigious college are in line with the progressive agenda of the petition's organizers, FOX Business has learned.
As FOX Business first reported Tuesday, the petition was drafted last week by students in Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The petition then began circulating among those attending the university's prestigious Kennedy School of Government, and other parts of Harvard.
Despite apparently getting the thumbs up by most of the liberal arts school, students at the Kennedy School and the renowned Harvard Business School were less enthusiastic, FOX Business has learned.
The petition organizers then changed the wording of the document from an outright ban of Trump administration officials speaking, teaching or attending the university to holding these officials "accountable" before they deal with Harvard in the aforementioned capacities, people with direct knowledge of the matter say.
The wording change was likely the result of some opposition to the petition, these people add.
The student council of the Kennedy School has struck down the petition, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. “A few other conservative students and I made the point we can’t just target Republicans, that isn’t what the Kennedy School stands for,” Carter Estes, a Kennedy School student told FOX Business.
Estes is a member of the Kennedy School's student government and a member of a Republican student group. "Harvard has hosted a number of controversial guests over the years like a fellow from the Palestine Liberation Organization, so we should make broadly applicable guidelines that apply to every speaker, not single out Trump appointees” he added.
Students at Harvard Medical School as well as Harvard Divinity School are said to have approved the petition in its latest form.
“They (Trump officials) should be shunned by all policy schools,” one student who signed the petition wrote in a group chat reviewed by FOX Business.
In a statement, the university told FOX Business it is "aware of this student petition. Beyond that we have no comment.”
The petitions are an outgrowth of a movement started by far-left progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, who began prodding businesses and academia to blacklist anyone who worked in the Trump administration.
But the effort to blacklist Trump officials has received some backlash not just from conservative commentators but also some civil libertarians as a modern form of McCarthyism.
Still, the student councils that are voting on these petitions often reflect a far-left bias and they are becoming increasingly powerful at some big colleges forcing administrators to censor conservatives from speaking and teaching on campuses across the country.
For the Harvard petition to be implemented, the student councils of each school need to vote on the measure following broader dissemination among attendees.
The petition then would go before school administrators including Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow, who makes the final call on whether the petition becomes school policy.
Alan Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law, told FOX Business, that this petition is part of an alarming trend at universities where administrators capitulate to student demands. Dershowitz is a long-time defender of free speech on campus and has often angered his progressive colleagues for favoring dialogue from all sides of the political spectrum.
“I will challenge any ban that may be enacted by asking to speak at the school," he said in an interview. "I will not kowtow to this new McCarthyism”
Dershowitz added that if the petition is approved and moved forward, he will represent pro-bono any Trump official who sues the university after being barred.
After FOX Business first reported the matter, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who graduated from Harvard Law in 2016 said: "I hope the school administrators rebuke this movement. Academic communities should be bastions of free speech. I will happily walk back on campus and challenge this.”
Following the White House response, some Congressional members applauded the FOX Business scoop. Senator Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said, “Universities not only shouldn’t be afraid of free and open debate — they should welcome it. The whole point of education is to engage ideas you didn’t already hold, but some ideological extremists aren’t willing to hear their opponents out. It’s cowardly and, sadly, increasingly common on some campuses. Many principled liberal professors are adults who know that healthy institutions don’t give in to temper tantrums. Let’s hope some of them stand up."
Samuel Dorman of Fox News contributed to this report.