Following fellowship announcement, Snyder, Harvard face backlash online | Michigan Radio
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Following fellowship announcement, Snyder, Harvard face backlash online

Jul 2, 2019

File photo of former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
Credit Office of Governor Rick Snyder

Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is taking on a new role: senior research fellow at Harvard. The school's Taubman Center for State and Local Government made the announcement in a press release Sunday. His appointment began July 1.

“Governor Snyder brings his significant expertise in management, public policy, and promoting civility to Harvard Kennedy School,” Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy and director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government said in the press release. “We are excited that he will be joining the Taubman Center and confident that he will bring tremendous value to us and our students.”

Since announcing his appointment, Harvard and Snyder have both been subject to backlash across social media. Using the hashtag #NoSnyderFellowship on Twitter, many voiced their displeasure in the selection — the hashtag trended in Michigan for much of Monday. Another Harvard fellow, Nebraska state Senator Megan Hunt, asked the school to rescind his fellowship.

Additionally, some Flint residents shared their disappointment in Harvard’s decision via Twitter, including young activist "Little Miss Flint," Mari Copeny.

In June, Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced they were dismissing without prejudice all pending Flint criminal cases brought by the former Office of Special Counsel. This leaves the door open for the office to recharge the eight defendents whose trials were previously pending. In early June, the state seized Snyder's state issued cellphone as part of the continuing investigations. Sixty-five other former and current government officials also had their devices seized.

Former Director of Communications and Press Secretary to Gov. John Engler, John Truscott, said there are a lot of Snyder “haters” and that people should be focusing on Snyder's positive records.

“He really turned this state around from the depths of a very deep recession where Michigan lost more manufacturing jobs than any other state in the country, and then also created and gained back more manufacturing jobs than any state in the country,” he said.

Snyder is studying and teaching subjects related to state and local governments at Harvard. Truscott admitted that it’s a little unusual and uncommon for governors to become professors.

“A lot of former governors or high-level politicians will go to be on the board of a major university, or something like that, but I would say it’s more rare that they actually go teach,” he said.

Former Gov. Engler was appointed to the National Assessment of Educational Progress board after leaving office, and served as Michigan State University’s interim president before resigning earlier this year.

Truscott said Snyder’s background in law and accounting provides a unique skillset.

“[Snyder] was a very non-traditional governor, in that he was not a politician," Truscott said. "He brought a business perspective to the office that I think is very valuable for students to learn from, and really a different approach to governing.” 

In 2017, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm was granted a spring fellowship at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. She's currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute, and teaches policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

Harvard has granted various fellowships to governors and other politicians throughout the years. Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was a fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics fall of 2017, as well as former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in Spring of 2012, and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in the Spring of 2011.

Beyond fellowships, it's not uncommon for universities to grant awards and honors to politicians. In May, Grand Valley State University's Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies awarded former Governor of South Carolina and former United Nations Ambassador, Nikki Haley, the Col. Ralph W. Hauenstein Fellowship Medal, which was protested by some GVSU faculty.