Letter to the Editor: Jahanian chose the glitz of a Grenell hire, sacrificing CMU's reputation

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

As a queer Tartan alumnus, I welcome efforts by Carnegie Mellon to fight homophobia abroad. Homosexuality is a criminal offense in 72 countries across the globe - and punishable by death in 12. However, I don’t understand what it is that Former Ambassador Richard Grenell has to bring to these conversations that explain his appointment as a Senior Fellow of Carnegie Mellon’s Institute of Politics.

It is fundamentally unclear what Grenell (or any member of the Trump administration) has to say in this area given the Trump administration’s abysmal record on LGBTQ+ rights. Last year, when Grenell announced a campaign at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality, President Trump was surprised by the announcement. This policy also represented a continuation of 2011 Obama-era priorities. The Trump administration has attacked LGBTQ+ rights abroad in ways both big and small, by making it harder for queer people to receive asylum and adopt, giving pride of place to homophobic missionaries in sub-Saharan Africa, and bans on flying the rainbow flag at embassies where local politicians are actively attacking members of my community. The domestic policies of this administration are no better. They removed protections for queer federal contractors. They filed briefs to support employment discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the cases decided by the Supreme Court this summer. They banned transgender Americans from serving in the military. They adopted Health and Human Services regulations that equate gender with sex assigned at birth.

While it is unclear what benefit Mr. Grenell brings to Carnegie Mellon, it is very clear what benefits Mr. Grenell gets from Carnegie Mellon. He gets his reputation, tarnished by service in this administration, laundered. This action hurts all of us in the Carnegie Mellon community – as all of us will have that Carnegie Mellon name on our resume. A name now also associated with Richard Grenell.

Finally, as the President of the Graduate Student Assembly and member of the Student Government Executive Board for the 2016-2017 school year, this feels like a betrayal by President (then Provost) Jahanian and the Carnegie Mellon academic administration. When you met with me and my constituents after the 2016 election you expressed your commitment to diversity and inclusion. Those values now ring hollow. We worked together to make this a campus that welcomed everyone, for instance when you (President Jahanian) and I worked together with the Iranian Student Association after the first visa ban. These actions don’t mean much now

This decision to bring Richard Grenell on undercuts all of the work done over the past four years by showing that the Carnegie Mellon administration will commit an unforced error. That it will go for the glitz of a big, morally questionable hire - and sacrifice itself in the process.

Daniel Gingerich
Engineering and Public Policy, '17