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Members of an informal student group called the Queer Resistance Front filled the steps of the Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel last night to protest the Second Annual Conservative "Coming Out" dinner, which was being held upstairs.
Bullhorn in hand, Anna M. Baldwin '00 led about 30 poster-toting protestors, who chanted "Shame! Shame! Shame!" as dinner guests made their way in to the event.
The dinner was sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Republican Club (HRRC), Jews for Conservative Politics (JCP) and the Salient, a conservative campus publication.
"We're protesting the appropriation of 'coming out' by conservatives on this campus, mainly because it is insidious to draw a comparison between coming out as a homosexual and as a Republican," said Michael K.T. Tan '01, who demonstrated outside of Hillel before dinner began.
According to Baldwin, the Queer Resistance Front shares many members with the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters' Alliance (BGLTSA) but is not affiliated with either the group or the College.
Although several protestors huddled outside of the second-floor room where the dinner was being held, none attempted to enter or disrupt the dinner.
Toward the end of the dinner, David B. Orr '01--who is chair of the Undergraduate Council's Anti-Homophobia Task Force and also attended last night's event--spoke to the conservative students assembled.
Orr said the conservatives were "insensitive to explicitly borrow language from the gay rights movement" for the name of the dinner, as well as to schedule the event on World AIDS Day, a day commemorating victims of AIDS and dedicated to raising awareness about the illness.
On Harvard's campus yesterday, students tabled, passed out red ribbons and attended a vigil last night on the Boston Common. World AIDS Day events will continue today.
Last night's dinner organizers, however, did not see their event's name as inappropriate or offensive.
According to Republican Club president Anne L Berry '01, the dinner was held "to celebrate being a conservative and to let other conservatives meet each other."
Festivities featured such traditional fare as meat, potatoes and apple pie, as well as patriotic music like "Stars and Stripes Forever."
Michael J. Housman '02, JCP co-chair, and HRRC member-at-large, said the name was a casual reference that was not directed at any group.
"Beyond the dinner, it really doesn't hold a lot of significance," said Housman, who helped organize the event. "I just wanted a lot of conservatives who don't come to events to come out to this one."
Hausman estimated that there were over 50 people in attendance at dinner, making it the highest attended Republican-sponsored event all year.
Other conservatives who attended the dinner said they often feel in the minority on campus and the reference to "coming out" was not at all inappropriate.
"It's quasi-serious," said Kevin A. Shapiro '00. "To be a conservative at Harvard is statistically rare."
Shapiro said he has often felt uncomfortable discussing his views in a group where no one shared his opinions.
Dinner guests said they were also disturbed that they were heckled simply for attending a conservative event.
"I think we should recognize persecution towards many different groups," said Heather A.Woodruff '03, who attended the dinner. "Each group deserves respect."
Event sponsors also said that the coincidence between the dinner's date and World AIDS Day was coincidental.
In fact, Housman said he had initially planned to hold the dinner today. He moved the event forward when he learned that several Republican members would be traveling to New Hampshire for this evening's Republican presidential candidate debates.
"The focus of this day is not World AIDS Day or some other group on campus, but the celebration of conservatism," Berry said.
Although the dinner took place at Hiller, that organization's chair, Michael A. Kay '01, said the event did not "represent the views of Hillel or of the Harvard Jewish community as a whole."
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