Universities are being urged to vet pro-Trump appointees before hiring them

Universities are being urged to vet pro-Trump appointees before hiring them
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House COVID-19 Coronavirus task force, delivers remarks and answers questions from members of the press Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in the James S. Brady White House Press Briefing Room. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

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Political appointees have a long history of moving into higher education after leaving White House administrations. However, universities are being urged to take extra steps to thoroughly vet former Trump administration officials before offering them future employment.

According to The Washington Post, faculty members and students at a number of universities across the United States believe collegiate institutions should "should apply more scrutiny to former Trump officials looking to make similar transitions."

The first wave of criticism came back in May when former Trump official Richard Grenell was granted a one-year fellowship by Carnegie Mellon University. An open letter was written to the university's administrators challenged the decision arguing that "a well-documented record of sexism and support for racist political movements." The criticism leveled at Grenell escalated in November when he publicly supported President Donald Trump's attempt to undermine the outcome of the presidential election.

At the time, Carnegie Mellon administrators defended its decision to hire Grenell but swiftly established committees to review Grenell's appointment and the university's policies in place for hiring. Jonathan Aldrich, a CMU professor and member of the committee put in place to review Grenell's hiring, offered an opinion from both perspectives.

He noted the difficulties that may arise in trying to vet potential hires in light of possible political disagreements. He also questioned whether or not political views would be held to the same standard as behavior and ethics.

"They're going to have to do the hard job of figuring out, even if we disagree with this person's politics, are our issues about politics, or are they about behavior?" Aldrich said, adding, "And maybe if there's serious doubt, we should give the benefit of the doubt to the person."

But despite the damaging impact of Trump's attempted coup, Robert Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, argues that attempts to vet former Trump appointees before hiring them to work on college campuses could be akin to "a well with no bottom."

"I think it's likely to lead for a tit-for-tat campaign that's going to lead campuses basically scrambling to find somebody, anybody, who can talk interestingly about an issue without being subject to a de-platform campaign," he said.

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