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Responding to Student Concerns Over Lack of Right-of-Center Programming, IOP Forms Conservative Coalition

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The Harvard Institute of Politics announced the formation of the “Conservative Coalition” — a hub for students at the College to develop their political identities and “advocate for IOP-wide conservative representation” — in an email to affiliates March 4.

Grace K. Bannister ’21, one of the coalition’s student representatives, wrote in an emailed statement that it was formed in response to concerns from conservative members of the IOP’s Student Advisory Committee about the lack of “any institutionalized conservative voice in the planning process” of its programming, and how that was “reflected in the programming itself.”

“The IOP had become limited insofar as all of its staff are politically left of center,” she wrote. “Whenever right-of-center ideas were discussed, it seemed to be through the lens of helping our left-of-center peers understand them, rather than discussing ideas as they are.”

Bannister wrote that “lack of conservative thought” in the IOP led to “repetitive and hollow attempts at discussing conservatism,” citing events on the “Future of the Republican Party” and “Future of Conservatism.”

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“It’s a limited conversation that had become one of the only forms of engaging conservatives at the IOP,” she wrote. “The Coalition was formed as an attempt to help the IOP step beyond this lens of engaging conservatives as ‘the other’ and create an institutionalized conservative thought partner to help IOP leadership craft thoughtful and engaging programming.”

Bannister added that “staff and student leadership were with us every step of the way in the formation of this project.”

IOP President Menatallah “Menat” N. Bahnasy ’22 wrote in an emailed statement that the Conservative Coalition is a “unique opportunity for our community members to learn from one another and build ideas together.”

“The IOP, like any institution, can always improve, grow, and become better,” she wrote. “When several of our student leaders shared the need for more conservative representation and thought, student and staff leadership quickly supported them in building strategies and ultimately the Coalition.”

IOP Director Mark D. Gearan ’78 wrote in an emailed statement that the IOP “has a longstanding commitment and history to encourage and enable diverse opinions to be heard.”

“From Resident Fellows to Forum guests and in our nonpartisan programming, we seek to ensure that our community engages in open discussion of a broad range of perspectives and ideas across the ideological spectrum,” Gearan wrote. “The IOP staff has worked closely with student leaders of the Conservative Coalition to organize this effort and we look forward to the work ahead.”

The coalition, which plans to meet biweekly, held its launch event on March 11 — a panel entitled “Conservatism in Higher Ed” featuring Alice Stewart, a member of the IOP’s Senior Advisory Committee, and Stephen P. Rosen, a Government professor.

Bahnasy wrote that she and other student leaders “remain committed” to ensuring that all students “feel included and are at the table” in the IOP.

“I am confident that the Coalition will be valuable to the IOP — it fills a need that students have felt for a long time, and has already brought new students and ideas to the forefront of our community,” Bahnasy wrote.

—Staff writer Isabel G. Skomro can be reached at isabelskomro@thecrimson.com or on Twitter @isabelskomro.

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