Fact Check

Is Harvard Considering Revoking Trump Allies' Degrees?

The list of alumni include White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Published Jan. 18, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: - White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a White House press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. The White House held a press briefing as U.S. President Donald Trump continues to challenge the results of the 2020 Presidential election. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images) (Getty Images)
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Following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, Harvard University was considering revoking degrees from high-profile Trump supporters.
What's True

An online petition circulated after the Capitol insurrection asking Harvard officials to revoke degrees from prominent Republicans.

What's False

No evidence showed Harvard officials were considering — or preparing to act on — the petition's requests.

What's Undetermined

The credibility of the petition, which existed as a Google form, and its creators' motivation were unknown.

In mid-January 2021, following the U.S. Capitol riot by supporters of President Donald Trump, Snopes readers contacted us to investigate reports that Harvard University administrators were considering a request to revoke degrees from alumni who spread misinformation about the 2020 presidential election that precipitated the deadly attack.

Republicans who have received post-undergraduate degrees from Harvard and spread false claims about Joe Biden's presidential win include White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, as well as Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Dan Crenshaw from Texas. A Jan. 15 article by TheBlaze, a conservative media outlet, alleged:

A group of students are demanding Harvard University revoke the degrees earned by Trump allies and aides. A petition by Harvard students insists that the Ivy League institution rescind the diplomas to anyone who supported challenging the 2020 presidential election results.

It was true that an online petition existed supposedly requesting school officials to rescind degrees from "alumni whose incendiary language and subversion of democratic processes" purportedly fueled the Capitol attack by right-wing extremists.

Snopes obtained a copy of the petition (a Google form) and a statement outlining its intent authored by people claiming to be students of the Harvard Kennedy School. The statement read:

After Wednesday’s insurrection, Government professor Ryan Enos and HKS Student Body President Diego Garcia Blum both renewed demands that the University pledge not to invite implicated political figures for speaking engagements or teaching positions. This is an important first step, as is Harvard Kennedy School Dean Doug Elmendorf’s welcome decision to remove Representative Elise Stefanik (College ’06) from the Institute of Politics. However, banning someone from a committee or campus because they incited a violent attempt to overthrow the U.S. government is the least the University can do; it still grants them the benefits of their Harvard degree everywhere outside of Cambridge. Those like Rep. Stefanik, who will wear a ban from Harvard as a badge of honor, may be less sanguine about a career without their B.A or J.D.

Revoke their degrees.

The Google form asked supporters to list their names, email addresses, schools, and graduate years, as well confirm or deny permission to attach their personal information to the above-mentioned statement.

It was unclear where, or under what circumstances, the group supposedly created the petition, as well as if, or to what extent, the authors were serious about its requests. Also unknown was the number of people who completed the form and what campaign organizers were doing with their information.

That said, we found no evidence of Harvard officials considering — or preparing to act on — the petition's request to revoke degrees from high-profile Trump supporters.

According to the school's policies for graduate programs, Harvard administrators will consider revoking degrees from former students who evidence showed lied during the application process, or violated certain school rules as a student. The policy stated:

For example, academic dishonesty, sexual and racial harassment, the use of physical violence, or lying to an officer of the University are violations of the principles on which the University is founded and may result in disciplinary action [...] which could include rescinding an offer of admission or revoking a degree.

Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences administrative board and office of student affairs reviews such cases and determines their outcomes. There was no proof of such investigations into McEnany, Cruz, Crenshaw, or other prominent Republicans, as of this writing.

Snopes reached out to Harvard's media team, asking if officials were aware of the petition and whether the hypothetical fulfillment of its requests to revoke diplomas from Trump's allies were legal. We have not heard back, and we will update this report when, or if, we receive a response.

Fox Business reported on Jan. 14 that a Harvard spokesman said school officials indeed knew of the petition but were not commenting on it.

In sum, while it was true that an online petition requested Harvard officials to revoke degrees from prominent Republicans, its credibility was unknown, and no evidence showed administrators were at all considering its requests.

Jessica Lee is Snopes' Senior Assignments Editor with expertise in investigative storytelling, media literacy advocacy and digital audience engagement.