Update, July 3, 3:02 p.m. ET:
Amid widespread protest due to his role in the poisoning of Flint’s water, former Michigan Governor Rick Synder has “turned down” a senior research fellowship at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. On July 3, shortly after 12:30 ET, he tweeted:
I have informed the HKennedy Sch that I am turning down its offer as Snr Res Fellow. It would have been exciting to share my experiences, both positive and negative; our current political environment and its lack of civility makes this too disruptive. I wish them the best.— Rick Snyder (@onetoughnerd) July 3, 2019
On Monday (July 1), one of the United’s States’ most highly regarded academic institutions welcomed a politician who is at the center of one of the country’s most insidious tragedies in recent history.
Rick Snyder, former Republican governor of Michigan, was seated on Monday as a senior research fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. In that role, Snyder will teach, study and write on subjects related to state and local government, reports The New York Times.
Snyder, who left office in January, was governor when the Flint water crisis began in April 2014. An emergency manager that he appointed to run the majority Black city opted to switch the water source from the Great Lakes Water Authority to the Flint River to save money. The result was a doubling of the percentage of Flint children with elevated levels of lead in their blood, a decrease in fertility and an increase in infant deaths as a result of the lead. Twelve people died from Legionnaires’ disease linked to the toxic water, while approximately another 90 residents contracted it and lived—making it the third largest outbreak of Legionnaires’ in U.S. history.
Last month, search warrants were issued for the phone and hard drive Snyder used while in office, as part of a state investigation into the crisis. Also in June, NPR reported that state prosecutors dropped criminal charges against eight government officials implicated in the scandal so they could launch a new, expanded investigation.
According to CNN:
Harvard’s statement makes no mention of Snyder’s role in implementing and overseeing the law under which the emergency managers were appointed or the governor’s role in overseeing those state officials.
Professor Jeffrey Liebman [director of the Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government] commends Snyder in the statement for his “significant expertise in management, public policy and promoting civility.”
Many took to Twitter Monday using the hashtag #NoSnyderFellowship to call out the appointment as inappropriate and to demand that Harvard rescind it. Among them is Mari Copeny, who gained global recognition as “Little Miss Flint” for calling national attention to the crisis. Others urged people to sign a petition titled “Rescind Governor Snyder’s Harvard Kennedy School Fellowship.”
Do you think Harvard should award a fellowship to a politician who literally poisoned his own constituents? …Me neither!— Sophie Hill (@sophie_e_hill) July 1, 2019
Add your name to this petition to tell the Harvard Kennedy School they must rescind Rick Snyder’s fellowship: https://t.co/0a68ghvL0h #NoSnyderFellowship
This is a disgrace, @Kennedy_School. You’re not only rewarding someone for willfully poisoning the Black residents of his state, but upholding him as a model for other future politicians and policymakers to learn from. Rescind this fellowship. https://t.co/UiDJC5FBcZ— wikipedia brown ||| abolish ICE. (@eveewing) July 1, 2019
So the @Kennedy_School ignores the activists like @LittleMissFlint and the pediatrician who uncovered the government failure and awards the person responsible for the failure? #NoSnyderFellowshiphttps://t.co/TCZXsrZ8LZ— Showtime Synergy! (Shani, The 5th Hologram) (@BlerdMommy) June 30, 2019
Before you walk onto The Yard, the first thing that you see is the word “VERITAS” or “Truth.” Snyder’s time as governor undermines that motto. I hope more Harvard students will push back against this fellowship. #NoSnyderFellowship https://t.co/Hz0migE9Qq— Janan Thee Grad Student (@jananamirah) June 30, 2019
NYC (@NYjusticeleague) July 1, 2019