Rick Snyder, the man responsible for the Flint water crisis, lands at Harvard, and people are rightfully outraged

This past weekend, it was announced that former Michigan Governor Rick “let’s throw an opulent secret birthday party for my wife while people are dying in Flint” Snyder had been named a senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School. And, as you might imagine, this didn’t sit well with some of us who remember his aggressively inhuman approach to leadership… Before we get into the response to this most recent announcement, however, I’d like to start with the following excerpt from New York Magazine, which does a pretty good job of succinctly retelling the story of the deadly Flint water crisis.

…Snyder is infamous for presiding over the Flint water crisis and its mishandling, which was set in motion when the city switched water sources from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River to cut costs. The Flint River was contaminated and officials failed to treat it properly to mitigate the effects. As a consequence, the water corroded many of the city’s pipes, releasing elevated lead levels into the taps of thousands of Flint residents and causing an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that infected 90 people and killed 12.

Snyder was responsible for appointing the head of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, who ensures water safety statewide, and the emergency manager who oversaw the city when Flint’s water source was switched in 2014. The former governor also appears to have lied about when he first became aware that Flint’s water was unsafe. His administration did not implement emergency procedures until months after they knew about the crisis, while officials continued to insist that the water was safe despite its foul odor, rust color, and the fact that it was causing hair loss and rashes in people who bathed in it…

Now, as for the response to Harvard’s announcement that Snyder would be joining the Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government as a senior fellow… I guess you could say that it has not been kind. Take, for instance, the bitingly sarcastic headline at the top of this post, which comes from Boston NPR affiliate, WBUR. And, perhaps more significant, Harvard alumni and others have been taking to social media to post beneath the #NoSnyderFellowship hashtag.

To date, however, it doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference. One Harvard official told WBUR that “despite his failings, Snyder — a fiscal conservative from the Midwest — brings life experience and perspective to a campus that might otherwise have a liberal or coastal skew.” And I guess that’s what it all comes down to. Harvard feels it necessary, given the current political environment, to have Republicans on the campus, and Snyder, sadly, is the best contemporary example they could find. Just think about that for a minute. Rick Snyder, who put policies in place that left dozens of his constituents sick and dead, is the most palatable conservative from our modern era that Harvard could find.

Here, if you’re interested in getting involved, is information on how to contact Harvard, as well as a video of Wayne State PhD candidate Kaitlin Popielarz leaving a message, to show you how it’s done.

For what it’s worth, when I first heard about this appointment of Snyder’s, my immediate reaction wasn’t one of disgust at the thought that Harvard would bring our former Governor onboard as someone who, according to them, was known for “promoting civility.” [Can you believe that? I wonder if they know about the lame duck assaults against the people of Michigan that he gladly participated in.] No, my first thought, as I shared on Twitter at the time, was that this was the kind of honor that someone must have paid to make happen. I mean, why else, would Harvard go though this, right?

Well, I don’t want to go down the conspiratorial rabbit hole, but according to the Detroit News, Harvard’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government was started with a $15M grant from wealthy Michigander A. Alfred Taubman, the billionaire mall-developer. [Taubman, as you may recall, was found guilty in 2002 of price-fixing at Sotheby’s, the auction house that he’d purchased in the early ’80s.] OK, I don’t know that the Taubman family necessarily loves Snyder. And I don’t know, even if they did, whether or not they’d still hold any sway over the management of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government. [Taubman died in 2015, at which point Snyder, by the way, shared a eulogy about his “kindness.”] I don’t see that any of Taubman’s children presently serve on the the advisory board, and, even if they did, it’s unlikely that the university would give too much consideration based on $15M investment in the ’80s, but I still think it’s an interesting question. As Snyder left office without much in the way of prospects, is it possible that the Taubmans, or someone else, interceded on his behalf to get him a plum spot at Harvard? Maybe someone with more time that me could submit a few FOIA requests and see what comes up.

update: Well, it looks like he’s dropped out, blaming the “a lack of civility” in our “current political environment.” I guess it’s his opinion that this had very little to do with his having led a government that wrested control away from its minority citizens, implementing ill-conceived measures that cost many of them their lives, and more to do with political tribalism. Well, I guess he’ll have the rest of his life, undistracted by the demands of a job, to think about it.

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25 Comments

  1. iRobert
    Posted July 3, 2019 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I suppose he could teach a class about how to recognize when a criminal business club is trying to talk you into running for office and being their stooge.

  2. Eel
    Posted July 3, 2019 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    And how to deal with them with civility!

  3. Posted July 3, 2019 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Wasn’t his phone recently seized in a criminal probe?

  4. Meta
    Posted July 3, 2019 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    From The Harvard Crimson.

    In the days following the Harvard Kennedy School’s announcement Friday that former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder had been named a senior research fellow, Harvard students, faculty, and those unaffiliated with the University quickly jumped to criticize the move.

    Snyder, who left office Jan. 1, is widely known for his role in the Flint, Mich. water crisis. During his time as governor, he appointed the officials who oversaw changes to the city’s water source that led to dangerous lead contamination. An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the city resulted from the change, infecting 90 people and killing 12.

    Snyder’s appointment Friday at the Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government swiftly led to backlash on social media. Harvard students and faculty were among those who voiced outrage about the decision, calling on Taubman Center director Jeffrey B. Liebman to rescind Snyder’s fellowship through an email campaign and change.org petition.

    In the Kennedy School’s initial press release announcing Snyder’s appointment, Liebman said that he expects Snyder will bring “significant expertise” in management and public policy. The release referenced Snyder leading Detroit through the “largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history,” and expanding Michigan’s workforce training and STEM education programs. It made no mention of the Flint water crisis.

    Mo Torres, a doctoral fellow in the Kennedy School’s Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy, said he was in “disbelief” when he heard about Snyder’s appointment. In 2017, Torres said the Taubman Center offered him $2,500 to study the consequences of Michigan’s Public Act 4, which Torres said sparked Flint’s water crisis.

    “As a direct consequence of Rick Snyder’s actions, there’s been an entire generation of Flint children that have been poisoned with lead contaminated water,” Torres said.

    “I would love to see a governor appointed to HKS who has aimed to live up to high ethical standards, who has learned from their mistakes, who always privileges vulnerable people in society,” he added. “Governor Snyder is just not any of those things.”

    Timothy P. McCarthy — a lecturer at the Kennedy School — took to Twitter to question the school’s decision. In a response to a tweet questioning the appointment, he wrote that the decision was “beyond me.”

    “Perhaps you should ask the administration at @Kennedy_School — they may be able to tell you why a man who is under legal investigation for poisoning a city full of black folks is coming to teach our students,” he wrote. “It’s honestly beyond me.”

    In an effort to cut costs, Michigan shifted Flint’s water source from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the polluted Flint River in 2014. Investigations later revealed that Snyder lied about when he first knew that Flint’s water was unsafe, and implemented emergency procedures only months after he was made aware.

    Kennedy School affiliates have not been alone in questioning the school’s decision to appoint Snyder — in a public statement on their website, the Harvard College Democrats wrote that Snyder’s appointment was a “direct endorsement of Governor Snyder’s racist legacy.”

    The group’s president, Henry “Hank” R. Sparks ’21, said the organization issued the statement knowing the “devastating” impact that Snyder’s decisions had on the city.

    “We’re really disappointed to see Harvard not only give a platform to someone with that record but also to honor him,” Sparks said. “Fellowships can be a way to honor people. And in our case, we don’t think he’s deserving of the honor.”

    Tiffani A. Bell, a former fellow at the Kennedy School’s Ash Center, said she thought the school was sending the “wrong message” by expecting students to learn from Snyder.

    “It’s telling people you can basically fail up,” she said. “You can literally kill people in your governing and fail and Harvard will still think that you have something to offer people.

    Bell created a change.org petition — which garnered over 5,500 signatures as of Tuesday evening — asking Liebman to rescind Snyder’s fellowship.

    In a message Liebman sent to many who have written to him, he wrote that the Kennedy School does not “endorse” its fellows’ words or actions. He added that Snyder will “undoubtedly face hard questions” from students during his time at Harvard.

    “At the Kennedy School, we aim to learn from both the successes and failures of public officials,” he wrote. “Having public officials on campus allows our students to ask those officials hard questions, and we believe that it prepares our students to have more successes and fewer failures when they become leaders.”

    Kennedy School spokesperson Norah Delaney declined to comment on criticism’s about Snyder’s appointment. Snyder did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening.

    This is not the first time Harvard has invited controversial public figures to its campus. In 2017, hundreds of alumni protested the Institute of Politics for choosing Corey Lewandowski and Sean Spicer — two former aides to President Donald Trump — as visiting fellows.

    Though the IOP did not rescind their fellowships, it did withdraw another appointment in 2017: Chelsea E. Manning, a former U.S. soldier convicted of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks lost her fellowship after CIA director Mike Pompeo refused to attend a speaking engagement at the IOP in protest.

    Snyder began his appointment Monday. As a fellow, he will study, teach, and write about issues related to state and local governments, according to the original announcement.

    Read more:
    https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2019/7/3/hks-backlash-snyder/

  5. Demetrius
    Posted July 3, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Snyder is directly responsible for decisions that resulted in poisoning the drinking water supply for mid-size American city, and for causing thousands of children to end up with lead levels that may end up harming them for the rest of their lives … but hey, he did it without raising his voice, and he smiled while doing it … therefore, “civility.”

  6. Demetrius
    Posted July 3, 2019 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Freep: Former Gov. Snyder turns down Harvard appointment after backlash

    https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/flint-water-crisis/2019/07/03/snyder-harvard-appointment-flint/1640293001/

  7. iRobert
    Posted July 3, 2019 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Snyder belongs at Ave Maria down in Florida.

  8. Bob
    Posted July 3, 2019 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Ooh! Can we revive the discussion about what assholes Matt and Rene are?

  9. c r
    Posted July 3, 2019 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Snyder belongs in prison.

  10. wobblie
    Posted July 3, 2019 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Not only is he responsible for 12 deaths, the poisoning of a generation of Flint children, but also the criminal manner in which our unemployment insurance system has worked since he was inaugurated. Synder’s Michigan criminalized thousands of unemployed folks, fined them, seized property from and threatened them with penal penalties. Doing all of this on the basis of privatized software systems designed to maximize profit for the developer and minimize benefit payments to our unemployed folks.
    The disaster that was Synder was obvious to anyone who wanted to look. His first executive order was to abolish the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Systems, Board of Review. A board that I proudly served on for 11 years. In the interest of “efficiency” and being more like private industry, he over saw the above disasters and more. But to the liberals he was a lesser evil than that angry Virg Benero.
    Liberals are getting ready to duplicate the Synder disaster nationally with the nomination of some lesser evil corporate Democrat.

  11. Sad
    Posted July 3, 2019 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    We’re not going to nominate some lesser evil corporate democrat.

    We’re nominating Mayor Pete.

  12. Dogmatic Dolt
    Posted July 3, 2019 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Aloha, how the rich work. I make no secret about my support for the only candidate who is courageous enough to confront the complex of evil that rules our nation. She is constantly being smeared by both msm and some progressive web sites. Smears do not just spring up spontaneously. Some remember how John Kerry ( a true war hero) was “swift boated”.
    The money behind the Tulsi smears.
    https://www.nicholasbredimus.com/bio/

  13. Dogmatic Dolt
    Posted July 3, 2019 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Aloha, Why would Bredimus want to smear Tulsi. She and her family called him out in Hawaii because of his sexual proclivities. The rich think they are different from you and I, and should not be held to the same standards.
    https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-5th-circuit/1173625.html

    HW would immediately see the pedophile connections.

  14. Dogmatic Dolt
    Posted July 3, 2019 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Aloha, More info on how smear campaigns work

    https://girlygrrrl.com/2019/04/30/meanwhile-in-hawaii/

  15. Dogmatic Dolt
    Posted July 3, 2019 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Aloha, It is not just a single individual who wants to keep Tulsi’s message from spreading. We are beginning to see the beginning of “deep fakes” being used by msm.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_uVJCn7xOs

  16. iRobert
    Posted July 4, 2019 at 3:57 am | Permalink

    Mahalo, Dogmatic Dolt. It’s sad, isn’t it?

  17. iRobert
    Posted July 4, 2019 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    This attempted appointment shows how lame Harvard has become. That used to be a serious institution. Maybe they have a position for Strampel, or Engler, or Nassar. Someone should ask. Maybe we could ship all our human sewage to Harvard.

  18. iRobert
    Posted July 4, 2019 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Dogmatic Dolt, I think the red dot on Tulsi’s chin was a flake of lipstick.

  19. Dogmatic Dolt
    Posted July 4, 2019 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Aloha iRobert–how did it manage to just disappear while she was talking? Go to the NBC youtube. At about 50 min. Tulsi begins talking about Iran. The camera is on her the entire time. At a little after 51 min. the red dot just disappears. I suspect we will see lot’s of hit adds using Tulsi’s face from that one min. where they stuck the pimple on her face.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJ6MrDO0kgY

  20. Jean Henry
    Posted July 4, 2019 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    The thread wherein Dogmatic Dolt weaves a conspiracy theory about how his preferred candidate, who gets little attention and has zero chance of winning, is a target of consolidated effort to suppress her message. The one no one is listening to anyway. No effort required.

    It’s amazing how myopic most conspiracists are. Maybe it goes with the territory to have a perspective completely unhinged from anyone else’s reality.

    Or the theory is a cynical strategy to draw attention to a candidate no one cares about. I’d have more empathy for that.

  21. iRobert
    Posted July 4, 2019 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Dogmatic Dolt,

    Watching the video in the tiny iPhone 5 screen, I can’t even see any little red dot on Tulsi’s chin. I’ll take another look at the video on the big screen TV when I get home.

    If there is a dot on Tulsi’s chin that moves with her chin but disappears at any point (not to return) it’s most likely a flake of dried lipstick or something similar. There is no reason anyone would use the technology necessary to create such an insignificant difference and then not maintain it for the entire time she was talking. It’s just not logical.

    However, Tulsi is in the top tier of contenders, unlike what Jean says. She is possibly the most knowledgeable candidate on the broadest range of issues. She is certainly being marginalized intentionally by the party and the corporate media. Fortunately, social media and voters are not so easily controlled and corrupted. Her message is getting out.

    Don’t pay any attention to Jean. She just feels threatened by strong women, and her white privilaged is threatened by a non-white candidate like Tulsi. At least that’s what Jean would say if it were someone else saying what she is about Tulsi.

    Jean is a haole. She doesn’t understand the spirit of aloha.

  22. Anonymous
    Posted July 4, 2019 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    I think pretty much all the commentators here are haole, even with a decent tan.

  23. iRobert
    Posted July 4, 2019 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    That’s been my experience too. Each and every commenter seem a haole.

  24. iRobert
    Posted July 6, 2019 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    Has anyone here been following the recent developments in the Flint water crisis investigation?

  25. Anonymous
    Posted July 6, 2019 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I think the Flint water fiasco is a symptom of complex systems overwhelming the available support structure when things go awry. Flint did do an annual one day switch to river water to test it’s ability to handle an emergency loss of Detroit water. They did not have the permanent mechanism to adjust river water pH to preserve the coating over the lead solder in older housing water lines. They had slowly reduced expertise and staffing in the water department who might have had influence in getting such a system added. The private company who consulted on this project failed their due diligence when inspecting the plant. My guess is that they asked Flint staff if they had ever had problems running river water through the treatment plant, and the answer was no, which was true for the annual one day run. The legal advisors to the project likely read the department duties and responsibilities to citizens in the same way as a telephone, electrical, or cable utility, in that the responsibility of the company ends at the property line. The lead solder problem exists in the houses, not the main lines. Electrons are fungible; water pH is not.
    Ypsilanti has the same problem, but in real estate financing and brownfield mitigation, hence the Water Street fiasco. Some things require expertise and knowledge beyond what a smaller and poorer town has access to.
    Riviera Beach has the same problem, but in IT, hence the bitcoin ransom demands for town data held hostage.
    We just can’t predict what will happen when ever more complex systems fail. We can only be resilient. It’s hard to do that on a small scale now.

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