Carter Banker, a second-year Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy (MALD) candidate at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, started a petition on Oct. 17 to remove former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci (LA ’86) from The Fletcher School’s Board of Advisors.
The Board of Advisors comprises about 40 members who have achieved success in their respective fields. According to Executive Director of Public Relations Patrick Collins, the advisors convene two to three times per year.
“To the best of our knowledge, there is no precedent for removing an advisor from a board,” Collins told the Daily in an email. “Advisors have resigned from boards in the past, most often when government or other appointments created conflicts of interest.”
Banker first thought about starting the petition when Scaramucci made threats in an interview with a New Yorker reporter, but she was preoccupied with an internship in D.C. at the time. However, when The Scaramucci Post, a publication created by Scaramucci after he was ousted from his White House post, tweeted a poll asking users how many Jewish people had died in the Holocaust, she said she knew it was time to start a petition.
“Over and over again, he has displayed very very poor judgment and now it’s been on more than one occasion,” she said. “I don’t think he is fit to be in a role where he is advising our school.”
Although Banker said the petition has mostly received support, she did say that someone had tried to sabotage the petition, by manipulating the spreadsheet which she had used to collect signatures. Banker said she was easily able to recover the information and changed the document’s privacy so that only approved people could edit it.
“It’s kind of hilarious and pathetic that someone at the diplomacy school would behave so undiplomatically,” she said. “If you don’t like the petition, you don’t have to sign it.”
Banker reached out to colleagues, alumni and faculty members to sign the poll, using social media and directly messaging people. She said nearly 250 students, faculty and alumni had signed her petition and agreed that Scaramucci does not reflect Fletcher values.
“Mr. Scaramucci’s wanton vulgarity — so obscene that the newspapers could not reprint his interview verbatim, and so over the top that even the president felt obliged to let him go after barely a week on the job — is incommensurate with the decorum and dignity that our school must stand for,” Christopher Ellison (F ’12), who included the note with his signature on the petition, wrote. “He must go.”
Banker sent the petition to Fletcher’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations, the group that is responsible for managing the Board of Advisors, on Nov. 1. She was uncertain about who was in charge of dealing with such a situation but was confident that in such a small school, it would reach the right person.
“I didn’t want to make it too political by just sending it to Dean Stavridis,” Banker said. “My goal isn’t to make waves. My goal is to have impact.”
Senior Director of Development and Alumni Relations Kate Ryan emailed Banker in response to the petition on Nov. 6, informing her that the Office of Development and Alumni Relations was examining the situation with Tufts leadership, she added.
“[I] also had a great conversation with Dean Sheehan … that seemed to confirm [Ryan’s] statement,” Banker told the Daily in an email. “All members of the administration are aware, and seem to be in touch with student concerns.”
Banker said it was possible that potential incoming students could be deterred by Scaramucci’s presence on the board. Furthermore, from her conversations with a few alumni, she thought it was likely that some would withhold donations to the school.
Banker also stressed that the issue of removing Scaramucci is a non-partisan one, as he financially supported Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, and admitted to voting for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama as reported by the Daily Beast in July. Prior to working for Trump, he had insulted the president in a series of now-deleted tweets. Thus, she said, this is not another instance in a trend of liberal universities ousting conservatives.
“The way that he conducted himself is completely contrary to how we’re taught to conduct ourselves,” Banker said. “He has shown himself to be somewhat of a hypocrite and an opportunist.”
Banker also expressed her desire that the administration be more transparent to the Fletcher community.
“I think a lot of people are concerned that we don’t know that much about how our board runs and that a lot of things happen behind the scenes in our administration that we just don’t know about,” she said. “What we really want in this process is transparency and for the administration to talk to us.”
Professor of Practice of International Conflict Analysis and Resolution and Director of the Institute for Human Security Eileen Babbitt was one of a handful of Fletcher faculty who signed Banker’s petition. She said she was unimpressed by his use of vulgar language and his demeaning behavior. Babbitt said that at the very least, a representative of the school should display civility and respect.
“It doesn’t seem to me that he’s the kind of person I would want representing Fletcher or being affiliated in a public way with Fletcher,” Babbitt said. “It’s inconsistent with who I think we are at Fletcher and who we are at Tufts.”
Clare Gooding, a second-year Master of International Business (MIB) student at The Fletcher School, said she was initially hesitant to sign the petition because she is wary of the lack of conservative voices in elite higher education institutions. However, after talking with Banker, she changed her mind and decided to sign the petition.
“The public nature of his profanity was so shocking that I realized this isn’t a partisan thing,” she said.
Although Gooding said Scaramucci’s presence on the board was questionable, she was not sure if it was necessarily detrimental. She believes that a comprehensive review is in order and that The Fletcher School administration should be the ones to handle that.
“After the Trump election, it became very clear that we do have a massive divide politically in our country,” Gooding said. “We need to do a better job making sure all political voices are being heard. That’s our job as diplomats and lawmakers.”
Collins said that no one board member has disproportionate authority over the university and that the board benefits from the ideas of all its members.
“We are aware of the petition, and there are ongoing discussions about the circumstances under which any advisor would be asked to resign for cause, but the bar for doing so would be very high,” he said.
No board members could be reached for comment.