Pryor's Move Will Allow More Participation

To the editors:

In "Pryor Disbands IOP's Student Governing Body" (News, Nov. 9), an unidentified member of the former Student Advisory Committee (SAC) to the Institute of Politics (IOP) says, "[Disbanding SAC] is particularly frustrating for juniors and sophomores who had planned to continue to contribute to the IOP for the rest of their college career. If you're a junior or a sophomore, now you don't even have an opportunity there for the future."

This quotation should give anyone pause, for on its face it makes no sense. By revamping the governing structure of the IOP, why would that possibly deprive sophomores and juniors of the ability to participate? Whatever the system that replaces it, surely students of all classes will be able to make contributions.

Having been an associate of the IOP, however, the statement makes perfect sense in the context of how many SAC members viewed the IOP and their place in it. When I was an associate in 1997 and 1998, the only members expected to make a contribution were the members of SAC. In fact, SAC discouraged more than casual involvement from any undergraduate. SAC discussions were secret, as were the conclusions reached at the meetings. The most desirable lunches and other meetings were reserved almost exclusively for SAC members. It is no wonder that most students drift away from the IOP after their freshman year.

The IOP needs a new leadership structure, one which encourages students to take on responsibility and organize programs that broaden the IOP's appeal. Leaders should be elected by all students who have contributed, not chosen behind closed doors. Students should be able to assume responsibility and participate in desirable activities without having to hold an elected position, and these contributions should be both encouraged and recognized. Under such a system, even the former members of SAC could certainly make a meaningful contribution.

The IOP was founded to nurture greater political involvement in the Harvard student body. Instead, it has become a large institution that caters to a small number of aspiring politicians while ignoring the approximately 6,500 undergraduates not on SAC. I am glad that former senator Pryor recognized this problem and is working to make the IOP accessible to all students.

David B. Alpert '00

Mountain View, CA

Nov. 12, 2000