Several hundred Duke University alumni have signed a letter to Donald Trump’s senior adviser, Stephen Miller, a fellow Duke graduate, saying that his actions in the administration do not further “intellectual honesty, tolerance, diversity, and respect.”
The alumni, many from Miller’s Class of 2007, published online an open letter to their classmate Saturday, ahead of their 10-year reunion in April.
The letter said Miller, having risen to the peak of American policymaking, has the power to influence lives around the world. “And yet we find it impossible to see in your words and actions any glimmer of the university values we so cherish, nor the slightest suggestion that you spent four of your most formative years at the same dynamic, diverse institution of higher education we did.”
It goes on to list the kinds of Duke student experiences that alumni say helped them embrace diversity.
“Surely you ate lunch alongside students of color, people from all manner of socioeconomic backgrounds and locales,” the letter said. “How, then, can you condone rhetoric that reduces African Americans to people who hail only from crime-infested, drug-ridden neighborhoods and that insults Hispanics by asking them to support the construction of that most divisive of political symbols—a wall separating them from their heritages, and often their families?”
Miller is said to be one of the authors of Trump’s inaugural address and the recent executive order that imposed a temporary ban on refugees and residents from seven mainly Muslim countries. The order has prompted widespread protests and lawsuits, even as some polls show significant public support for tougher immigration measures.
Miller, 31, is known as one of Trump’s “two Steves” who are are playing a key role in the new administration’s policy strategies and sweeping changes. The other is Steve Bannon, the former head of conservative website Breitbart.
At Duke, Miller was a columnist for the Duke Chronicle student paper and was a forceful defender of three lacrosse players wrongly accused of rape in 2006. The players were eventually exonerated because of the actions of a now-disbarred district attorney, but Miller also blamed what he said was political correctness run rampant at Duke. He also skewered multiculturalism, affirmative action and other topics.
The News & Observer published a story about Miller’s Duke days. The White House did not respond to a request to interview Miller last week.
One of the letter’s authors, Corey Sobel, a writer and consultant from Brooklyn, said he and a friend, Carly Knight, a doctoral student at Harvard, decided to write it after communicating with Duke grads on Facebook.
“It’s not targeted at him so much as it is an expression of mass disavowal of what a lot of people view as his attacks on the values that we tried to uphold at Duke and that we try to uphold professionally,” Sobel said Sunday.
Sobel is married to former Chronicle editor Seyward Darby. In an email, Darby, a journalist, said she did not participate or sign the letter.
The letter, Sobel said, is similar to a recent letter to Trump’s son-in-law and aide, Jared Kushner, from Harvard alumni, imploring him to influence the administration in a positive way. Last year, thousands of alumni from the Wharton business school of the University of Pennsylvania signed a letter to Trump, a graduate, writing, “You do not represent us.”
The Duke letter made no demands but promised that the signers would “serve as representatives of the Duke we want to the world to see.”