HRC Dost Protest Too Much

The Republican Club should not have called for the Dems’ withdrawal from HSF

When someone induces himself to vomit in a public forum, everyone wishes to impart their two cents. This past Thursday, the Harvard Republican Club (HRC) issued a press release condemning the protestors who attended last Tuesday’s Careers in Counterterrorism event; more significantly, however, they called upon the Harvard College Democrats to formally dissociate from the Harvard Social Forum (HSF). We have already joined in decrying the protest techniques used during the presentation of the Careers in Counterterrorism panel, but it has been established that HSF was not complicit in the incident.

The HRC should not meddle in the internal decisions of its Democratic counterparts. With whom the Dems affiliate should not be of their concern and it is unclear to us why HRC even released its statement, though it’s not a stretch to infer that they are aiming to weaken HSF.

Many people seem to misunderstand HSF and the role it plays on campus. Unlike the HRC and the Dems, the HSF is not a political group that takes policy positions; instead, it provides logistical support to a coalition of progressive campus groups, many of which share common goals—and many of whose ideals we share. In asking the Dems to disassociate from the HSF, the Republicans have misinterpreted both the role of HSF at the protest and the role of HSF as a student group on campus. The HSF appropriately represents a collection of progressive groups on campus, not the singular voice of any of its member groups or of its groups’ members.

The HSF itself plans no political events—that is left to its member groups—and sponsors only cultural and social events. Perhaps students’ poor understanding of the structure of HSF has led to some of the backlash against the organization—it was a member group of the HSF, not the HSF itself, which planned and executed the inappropriate protests.

Operating under such a structure means that a group’s membership in the HSF does not represent an endorsement of any other member groups; it simply means that there is the potential for some groups to work together in some areas. And what happened both inside and outside of the Science Center was not the work of the HSF itself, only that of members of its constituent groups. Certainly, the Dems and the Progressive Labor Student Movement, for example, may find common ground in some areas, but their common membership in the HSF hardly implies a full overlap in their views.

As the campus groups representing the U.S.’s two main political parties, it would be easy for HRC and the Dems to fall into an adversarial rut, where each group’s mission is nothing more than to oppose the activities of the other. But, this didn’t happen during last November’s presidential election, to both group’s credit. Each group devoted its activities to supporting its national candidate and platform, and since then, the two have staged several successful policy debates this school year. Thus the HRC’s missive inappropriately meddles in the internal affairs of another student group.

We cannot remember a time when any campus group has so publicly asked another to reevaluate its activities and associations, and we hope that other student groups do not suddenly feel that this kind of action is acceptable.

We do not expect that this foretells a breakdown in the relationship between HRC and the Dems, which, in recent memory, has been decidedly complimentary. To be sure, we are not condemning the HRC’s right to issue such statements—they clearly fall under the realm of free speech—but we believe that their release was unfair to both the Dems and HSF.

But most importantly, we generally support the progressive views that tend to lie in the overlap of many of HSF’s member groups, and we strongly support HSF’s mission to provide a framework for organizations that advance these goals. Ultimately, it is the choice of the College Democrats to decide whether to quit the HSF, and they should not be subject to outside pressure. But regardless of the Dems’ decision, we wish to see the HSF continue to provide the sturdy base necessary for progressive politics to flourish on Harvard’s campus.