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Professor Yarbrough should turn down the Salvatori Prize

February 11, 2022

This piece represents the opinion of the author .

The Claremont Institute presents the Henry Salvatori Prize each year to an individual “who has distinguished himself or herself by an understanding of, and actions taken to, preserve and foster the principles upon which the United States was built.”

In December 2021, Professor Jean Yarbrough received the prize. As a professor of government at the College, she has a duty to turn it down.

The Claremont Institute, with a stated goal of “saving Western civilization,” is no run-of-the-mill conservative think tank. It is a powerfully positioned, suit-and-tie insurgency movement, bent on undermining democratic institutions in service of an uncompromising reactionary agenda.

The organization champions “counter-revolution,” based on the premise that America’s founding principles only exist today in the “hearts and minds of a minority of citizens.” This extreme outlook is on regular and proud display by the institute.

Claremont Institute President, Ryan Williams claimed in an interview with the Atlantic that the Constitution is fit for only “a majority Christian people.” In an article published in Claremont’s publication, “American Mind,” Senior Fellow Glenn Ellmers stated that “most people living in the United States are not Americans in any meaningful sense of the term.” The Institute also collaborated on a pre-election report that currently serves as an instruction manual for rounding up activists in opposition to their politics and reinstalling former President Trump for another term.

These positions are not just antithetical, but offensive to Bowdoin’s stated mission to create a “moral environment, free of fear and intimidation … where differences can flourish.” They also contradict Bowdoin’s commitment to “prepare students to engage thoughtfully and with effect in civic life,” which President Rose highlighted in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection. It is inappropriate for the College to celebrate recognition by such a reprehensible organization.

Professor Yarbrough’s conservatism is rooted in decades of principled and intellectually rigorous study of American Political Theory. She is revered by Bowdoin students as a brilliant, dynamic and open-minded professor, willing to engage with ideas across the political spectrum. Her association with Claremont undermines this reputation, and provides academic cover for a menagerie of far-right conspiracy theorists and insurrection apologists.

Alumni of the Institute include alt-right activist Jack Posobiec, who popularized the “pizzagate” conspiracy, and John Eastman, a lawyer whose memos outlining a strategy for reinstalling Trump as President set the stage for the January 6 riot. The “American Mind” continues to feature and spotlight the work of Daren J. Beattie, a Trump speechwriter fired for association with white supremacists, who tweeted during the January 6 attack that various Black political leaders should “learn their place,” and “take a knee to MAGA.”

Professor Yarbrough has undoubtedly distinguished herself by her commitment to the principles upon which the United States was built. However, an organization that regularly platforms anti-democratic demagogues—such as Posobiec, Eastman, and Beattie—has no basis on which to confer such an award. So, why should Professor Yarbrough accept it?

Colter Adams is a member of the Class of 2024.

Editor’s note 02/13/2022 at 12:10 p.m. EDT: A previous version of this article incorrectly provided Professor Yarbrough’s first name. The article has been updated to reflect that Professor Yarbrough’s first name is Jean, not Janet as was previously reported. It has also been updated to correct the spelling of Yarbrough’s last name as Yarbrough, not Yarborough as was previously reported.


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  1. just_helping_out says:

    Jean, not Janet

  2. Class of 2023 says:

    Trump 2024 – Let’s Go Brandon!

  3. Oldbear says:

    Perhaps the author needs to look in the mirror- lots of projection here…

    • yung bear says:

      The only projection I detect stems from your comment…. Insecure about your inability to keep up with the changing geopolitical landscape of our country and constantly yearning about the “good ole days” ?

  4. Class of 2020 says:

    Well written and thoughtful. One can only hope that Professor Yarbrough does not agree with what the Institute stands for, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she harbors anti-democratic views; to be a conservative now means to be opposed to free and fair elections and to buy into conspiracy theories.

  5. Stuart Langton says:

    I appreciate but disagree with the option the author proposes. Why make this a binary choice of accepting or rejecting the prize if there are better alternatives? Would it not be smarter for Professor Yarbrough to use her acceptance speech to explore differences and agreements with the Claremont Institute and its associates? This is an opportunity for her to provide intellectual leadership in an age of political divisiveness in keeping with the Bowdoin mission. Although I know her not, and have no truck with Claremont, I propose we cheer her on and wait to see what she has to say. This could be a tremendous opportunity for her and Bowdoin.

  6. Alex from Toketown says:

    This essay, along with the replies, is very strange. Everybody seems to conveniently ignore the fact that JY is Claremont Institute through-and-through. She has worked tirelessly to shape it into what it is today. Her ideas and ideological commitments aren’t merely complementary to Claremont, they have also helped mold its current policy and ideological positions. If you have a problem with Claremont and its role in the destruction of American Democracy, and want to know how it got there, then start by striking up a conversation with Jean. She’ll be happy to wax poetic. Professor Yarbrough isn’t shy.

    JY has also worked hard to send dozens of students to “study” at various right-wing “think-tanks” during the summer. These students receive generous stipends and all-expense-paid junkets, thanks to the wealthy, right-wing donors who maintain those institutes. JY helps facilitate all of this, gaining the loyalty of both students and “think-tanks” alike, and embedding herself further in these donor networks.

    The question isn’t whether she should accept the award (she definitely should, and she should do so proudly), the question is whether somebody associated with Bowdoin should accept the “Jean Yarbrough Fellowship” from the Claremont Institute twenty years hence.

  7. Young Alum says:

    I wholeheartedly disagree with the premise that the Claremont Institute’s views are radical in the slightest. They would be completely accepted by the founding generation.

    “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Adams

    “Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe.” –James Madison

    • concerned student says:

      If you think James Madison had intended for the United States to be a theocratic state, you need to reread the founders.

      If you think “accepted by the founding generation” is some kind of inexorable command in contemporary constitutional law or that every moral, social and ideological view held by the founders should be accepted tout court today, you need to read history beyond those written by white people and seriously reassess your moral compass.

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