Rick Snyder on Wednesday withdrew from a research fellowship at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, reversing course less than a week after his announced appointment sparked blowback over the former governor’s handling of the Flint water crisis.
“It would have been exciting to share my experiences, both positive and negative; our current political environment and its lack of civility makes this too disruptive,” Snyder said in a tweet announcing he had turned down the offer. “I wish them the best.”
Story Continued Below
Snyder has been derided for not addressing the water crisis more quickly, and for failing to heed warnings that the majority-black city’s water supply had been contaminated with toxic levels of lead after officials began pulling from the Flint River without treating it with anticorrosives. He publicly apologized for the crisis in 2016, acknowledging “failures at all levels of government.” While the contamination began on his watch under the oversight of Snyder’s appointees, the former governor has blamed federal and city officials for the fiasco as well.
Last month, prosecutors in Michigan announced they were dropping charges against eight former officials and instead launching a new, more expansive probe as some residents of Flint still face contaminated water to this day.
In a press release touting Snyder’s appointment last Friday, Jeffrey Liebman, director of the school’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government praised Snyder for the former governor’s “significant expertise in management, public policy, and promoting civility.” The initial release made no mention of the Flint water crisis.
The term-limited governor left office earlier this year, and was slated to start the post at Harvard on Monday.
But the announcement was met with swift backlash on social media. Mari Kopeny, an activist for her hometown better known as Little Miss Flint, ripped the appointment, writing on Twitter that Snyder should instead be imprisoned over his role in the Flint crisis. Opposition swelled behind the hashtag #NoSnyderAppointment.
Snyder is the most recent appointee to a post at the Kennedy School to cause a public outcry. Earlier this year, the school rescinded an offer to whistleblower Chelsea Manning after criticism from then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Before that, the school received criticism after offering fellowships to President Donald Trump’s first press secretary Sean Spicer and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
His withdrawal also comes at a time when conservatives — as well as Trump and his administration — have railed against political intolerance on college campuses.
Before his withdrawal, Snyder said in a statement released through the school that he was “excited to join the talented faculty and staff there who are on the leading edge in improving public policy, civic engagement, and innovations in state and local government. I look forward to sharing my experiences in helping take Michigan to national leadership in job creation, improved government performance, and civility.”