Backlash swift as ex-gov Snyder headed to Harvard for fellowship
Social media backlash was swift and unrelenting after Harvard University revealed Sunday that former Gov. Rick Snyder, who oversaw Detroit's bankruptcy and apologized for the Flint water crisis, was picked for a one-year fellowship that began Monday.
Snyder will be a senior research fellow at the Kennedy School's Taubman Center for State and Local Government. The school is named for late U.S. President John F. Kennedy, a Harvard alum, and A. Alfred Taubman, a late Detroit-area philanthropist whose gift of $15 million in 1988 created the program.
“Governor Snyder brings his significant expertise in management, public policy and promoting civility to Harvard Kennedy School,” Jeffrey Liebman, director of the Taubman Center, said in a statement announcing Snyder's fellowship.
Criticism on social media has been swift, with people arguing that the scandal from the lead-contaminated water crisis should disqualify the Ann Arbor Republican from a post at a prestigious university.
Allison Scott, a spokeswoman for Snyder's limited liability company, RPAction, declined to comment on the opposition to his Harvard fellowship.
Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed took to social media Sunday to voice his frustration with the appointment.
"...you get to preside over a government that poisoned thousands of kids in #Flint and cover it up...And then join the faculty at @Harvard to think and write about it?" the former Detroit Health Department executive director wrote.
El-Sayed's former spokesman, Adam Joseph, an alumnus of Harvard University, called the decision "beyond astounding."
"Snyder should be held truly and honestly accountable for what he did to Flint -- not rewarded with a cushy seat at @Harvard," Joseph wrote.
Amaryanna Copeny, a young water activist known as Little Miss Flint whose 2016 letter to former President Barack Obama regarding Flint's water led to a visit that year, said "Harvard has to be smarter than this."
"Rick Snyder needs be in jail for poisoning Flint, not at Harvard," she wrote.
Former Attorney General Bill Schuette's special prosecution team never filed charges against Snyder, but it did persuade judges to bind over for trial on involuntary manslaughter two leading health officials, including former Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon.
Those charges were dropped when Attorney General Dana Nessel's office decided to reboot the investigation and ensure no one was made "political scapegoats" in Schuette's failed bid last year for governor — an accusation Schuette and his investigative team have rejected.
Flint resident and water activist Melissa Mays responded to the news with sarcasm.
"Thank you @Harvard for showing the victims in #Flint that you'll take the guy in charge of the #FlintWaterCrisis and the ruination of Gateway Computers into your fold. I'm sure he can teach so much about poisoning innocent people while bankrupting cities & corporations. BONUS!!" Mays wrote.
Elsewhere online, alumni and activists voiced their disapproval with the hashtag #NoSnyderFellowship and responded to Harvard's official tweets with calls to rescind Snyder's appointment. Many posts have included a form letter and email address for Liebman, asking the director to reconsider the university's decision.
The backlash from Flint issues have been an ongoing issue for the former governor. Last month, the Michigan Attorney General's Office issued search warrants to seize from storage cellphones, iPads and laptops of more than five dozen state officials active during the Flint water crisis, including state-owned items used by Snyder.
Snyder said he turned over all the items at the end of his term.
In all, 15 state and Flint officials were charged with criminal and misdemeanor charges. Schuette's office reached seven plea deals.
Chief among Snyder's accomplishments, as cited in Harvard's statement, is his work helping guide Detroit through the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. Before being elected in 2010, Snyder chaired computer company Gateway and founded a venture capital firm called Ardesta.