Since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, it has become effusively clear that Duke alumnus Stephen Miller (T’07) now occupies a position of significant authority in the new administration. As a senior advisor to President Donald Trump, Miller’s influence in the White House cannot be underestimated. He was a key architect of Trump’s controversial executive order on immigration, and his opinions will undoubtedly continue to shape Trump’s policy objectives going forward.

Miller’s meteoric rise since graduating from Duke less than a decade ago is undeniable: at the tender age of 31, he has the ear of the most powerful man on the planet—making him one of Duke’s most influential alumni.

One might reasonably expect that Duke, as an institution that values ambition and achievement, would celebrate Miller’s success as a graduate of the school. To the contrary, the Duke community’s reaction has been incredibly antagonistic towards Miller. Chronicle columnist Leah Abrams penned a piece strongly rebuking Miller, and several alumni from Miller’s class drafted an open letter to him that has garnered over 3,400 signatures.

While Abrams claimed that her column was not intended as a “takedown of the hyper-conservative perspective, or Trump, or even of Stephen Miller,” in my view, it went on to do exactly that—both condemning Miller’s actions and attempting to distance them from the reputation of Duke.

Abrams’s piece is emblematic of Duke’s collective opinion of Miller. In a community that is overwhelmingly liberal, the fact that an alumnus of the school has ascended to the highest level of Trump’s administration is disheartening for many students. As Abrams put it, “Stephen Miller does not represent Duke. His actions are not representative of the actions of Duke students, and his words are not indicative of the culture here.”

Miller’s political views are surely controversial. His personal beliefs as a member of the Trump White House starkly diverge from those of many Duke students. However, Miller’s individual contributions to the development of this university are undeniable, no matter one’s political proclivities.

As an undergraduate, Miller was an opinion columnist for The Chronicle, and while his pieces embraced a patently conservative ideology, his reporting on the 2006 Duke lacrosse case helped to shine light on the truth in a community that had embraced hysteria. At the time, an overwhelming number of students and faculty members jumped to conclusions in the case based on conjecture and misleading information rather than fact. It really was, as popularized by the title of ESPN’s documentary, just a fantastic lie.

In an environment where the court of public opinion had already convicted the three accused lacrosse players, Miller implored that observers consider the facts of the case and the law rather than unsubstantiated presuppositions of guilt or innocence. At the end of the case, the facts vindicated Miller’s statements and the legal system exonerated the lacrosse players.

It was a dark moment for the university, to say the least. Three innocent students, two of whom later left the school, found their reputations slandered and their lives nearly ruined. Far too many people jumped to conclusions and were flatly wrong. While race relations at Duke, in Durham and more broadly, are far from perfect, the subjugation of due process in the name of social justice that occurred around this case was indefensible.

At a time in which far too many people both on and outside this campus were wrong, Stephen Miller was right. As exhibited by the recent sexual assault case against Duke sophomore, Ciaran McKenna, due process remains an area where Duke can still improve. That said, Miller’s consistent efforts to promote due process and the presumption of innocence were noble, and there is no doubt that Duke is better off for his presence on campus at the time.

Despite his control of the facts during the Duke lacrosse case, Miller has been routinely criticized for his apparent disregard for the truth in his new role at the White House, and such criticism is understandable. For example, Miller has been unable to substantiate his repeated allegations of voter fraud committed during the 2016 election, a tendency that has earned him “Four Pinocchios” from the Washington Post.

One can disagree forcefully with Miller and his politics, but it is far more extreme to suggest that Duke ought to institutionally condemn Miller and his views. Miller is of course not the sole representative of Duke, but he calls this place alma mater and carries out his life as an alumnus of the school.

Stephen Miller is not perfect. No one is. That said, his contributions to justice and fairness at Duke as a reporter are unquestionable, and his rapid ascension to the acme of American politics embodies the ambition that Duke students cherish and share. His views oftentimes differ significantly from the common opinions of Duke students, but homogeneity of thought is a detriment rather than a benefit to an institution of higher learning such as Duke. Miller injected vitality into the campus debate and argued passionately for the accused players when few others dared to. He is not simply the obstreperous villain that many have portrayed him as.

Ian Buchanan is a Trinity freshman. His column, "let freedom ring" runs on alternate Thursdays.