Op-Ed: Seeking power of values over power of money

In an election-eve address on Nov. 3, 1980, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan restated an exceptionally durable ideal that encapsulates the concept of American exceptionalism: “I believe that Americans in 1980 are every bit as committed to that vision of a shining ‘city on a hill,’ as were those long ago [Pilgrim] settlers.”

Whether you agreed with Reagan’s ideas and policies, his reference to the concept of a “shining city on a hill” ­— one founded on high moral and ethical principles and devoted to the rights of the individual — is a core American belief. This is a concept that has been embraced here in the United States by many individuals and organizations.

One of these organizations is very close to home to all of us: Tufts University, which I regard as a shining school “upon a hill.” Its vision is “to be an innovative university of creative scholars across a broad range of schools who have a profound impact on one another and the world.”

Tufts is a place of high ideals, of research, of a commitment to truth that serves not mammon, but morality, through strengthening a sense of the central importance of values in individuals and in society and the institutions that govern our respective relations. It is a place that seeks to solidify the power of values over the power of money.

Given this durable concept of a shining city on a hill that is a beacon of morality for Americans and the world, and given that Tufts subscribes to this vision, then it is our responsibility as students of Tufts, as faculty or staff or trustees, to do everything in our power to preserve, strengthen and expand this noble vision.

However, there sits on the Board of Advisors of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts a man whose career and ideals are diametrically opposed to those ideas and who sullies the vision of the University.

This is Anthony Scaramucci, a man who began his infamously short career as the White House communications director by uttering profanity-laced comments on national news outlets, the man who sold his soul in contradiction to his own purported beliefs for a seat in that White House and a man who makes his Twitter accessible to friends interested in giving comfort to Holocaust deniers.

A man who is irresponsible, inconsistent, an unethical opportunist and who exuded the highest degree of disreputability should not be on the Fletcher Board. The Board of Advisors plays a critical role in building the spirit of our school and also, in more practical terms, board members define and oversee our school’s operations.

Scaramucci has, in his career and actions, demonstrated nothing that would align his values with those of the Fletcher School. His presence on the board instead places the credibility of Fletcher at risk.

So why should Scaramucci be on the board? Nothing in his past provides a valid reason, unless a decision has been made to enshrine the power of money over the power of values. If his credentials lie in the billions of dollars he made on Wall Street, then we have, as a school, abandoned our principles and vision. If Scaramucci can have a seat on our board, then Martin Shkreli, “the most hated man in America,” is worthy of an invitation to sit as well.

We are at a critical moment in our history as a nation, a point outlined eloquently just this past week by two former U.S Presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Both former presidents warned in separate speeches of the dangers to democracy of a drift toward extreme nationalism, bigotry and exclusion and away from the ideas of exceptionalism that have made the United States a nation of aspirations and achievement.

Their concerns and warnings have been echoed by our own Fletcher School Dean, retired Admiral James Stavridis. In an April 13, 2017 Time op-ed, Admiral Stavridis warned that our country has “arrived today at a point when our credibility feels unusually low, which will create real drag on our ability to build coalitions, convince allies and partners to come along on our missions, and convince the neutral nations of the world that we are in the right.”

Admiral Stavidris, along with Bush and Obama, have identified the core issue facing this country, but our dean also could be speaking directly to the core reason Scaramucci is such a terrible representative for the board. If Scaramucci exacerbated this critical issue of mistrust for the entire country during his brief White House stint, he certainly will do it to an even greater effect for Fletcher.

At a pivotal moment in American history when the most sacred tenets of American culture are being challenged, what is perhaps most crucial is that those who claim to seek a greater purpose stand clearly for what they so proudly and profoundly preach.

It has taken much toil and sacrifice to create a vision — however imperfect — of the United States as a shining city on a hill, one whose focus is on values and their transformative power. Similarly, toil and sacrifice have built Tufts into a shining example of all that is good and right about higher education.

Obviously there is no reason to mistrust Fletcher as an institution, but having a man such as Scaramucci on the Board of Advisors can be a reason to start. Now is not the time to diminish what has been created. Now is not the time to empower those like Scaramucci with the authority to diminish the values of this great university and the Fletcher School.

More than 240 Fletcher students, faculty and alumni signed a student-led petition, requesting the removal of Scaramucci from the board. “His ‘advice’ is not worthy of our institution, and his presence on the board could be a disincentive for new students looking to attend Fletcher and alums looking to donate to the school,” wrote Carter Banker, a student at Fletcher and the originator of the petition to remove Scaramucci.

We need to stand with these petitioners. Let’s make our concerns and voices heard. Let’s not let Scaramucci’s continued presence on the Board of Advisors dull the brilliant shine of our school upon the hill. Our students, our alumni and our supporters need to know at Tufts, the power of values is above the power of money.

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