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In the wake of Wednesday’s riots at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., nearly 700 Harvard affiliates have petitioned for Harvard’s Institute of Politics to disaffiliate with U.S. Representative Elise M. Stefanik ’06 (R-N.Y.), a supporter of efforts to overturn Electoral College votes in favor of President Donald Trump.
Stefanik, who serves on the IOP's Senior Advisory Committee, announced in a press release Monday that she planned to object to “certain contested electors” during Wednesday’s Electoral College count. The count was suspended when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, but after the Capitol was secured and Congress reconvened, Stefanik proceeded with her objection to the results.
The petition demands that the IOP remove Stefanik from its Senior Advisory Committee and “immediately sever all other ties with her.”
“We, the undersigned members of the IOP community, unequivocally condemn the attempt of fellow graduate Elise Stefanik ’06 to undermine democracy and our Constitution by improperly challenging the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice-President of the United States and enabling violence at our Capitol,” the petition reads.
Megan O. Corrigan ’16, an author of the petition, said that the chaos at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon inspired her and her co-authors’ calls to remove Stefanik from her IOP position.
“We knew that Representative Stefanik was someone who had a position at Harvard, who was on the Senior Advisory Committee for the IOP, and so we thought let’s try to get her off,” Corrigan said. “This is someone who should not have any legitimacy at this point, and Harvard is lending her legitimacy.”
Corrigan emphasized the “bipartisan nature” of the petition, noting that two former presidents of the Harvard Republican Club had signed it.
Corrigan and petition co-author Jacob R. Carrel ’16 said they were heartened by the reception the petition received among undergraduates.
Nadia R. Douglas ’23 offered to help Carrel share the petition among undergraduates after learning about it in a group chat. She and a friend created a “digestible” post with a statement and accompanying graphics about the petition that they posted on social media.
Douglas said she thinks “some type of reckoning” will result from the petition.
“I believe our actions won’t fall on deaf ears,” she said. “I believe that we will at least be heard and given a chance to speak.”
Menatallah N. “Menat” Bahnasy ’22, president of the IOP, said the process of deciding whether Stefanik is expelled from the IOP has yet to be “fully articulated.”
“There are lots of meetings ongoing today, as well as the coming days, to really flesh out what’s happened and determine what the right next steps are,” she said. “That might be through [Harvard Kennedy School] faculty and staff and deans, or it might be through Harvard University-wide administration. It’s not concrete yet.”
Bahnasy added that she has “no doubt” that the IOP and University administration will consider the petition.
James F. Smith, a spokesperson for the Kennedy School, declined to comment.
Zachary R. Werner ’22 said he supported the removal of Stefanik from her position within the IOP because of her contribution to the “conspiracy theories” that led to Wednesday’s protest.
“I believe this is the first petition I’ve ever signed in my two and a half years at Harvard pretty much for any purpose,” he said. “I’m not for banning people from campus that you disagree with, but the difference here is that Representative Stefanik has engaged and put forth these — there's no other word but — conspiracy theories.”
“I think, especially in light of today’s events, it’s just clear how damaging these conspiracy theories can be,” Werner added.
Jaden D. “J.D.” Deal ’23 also condemned Stefanik’s actions and advocated against giving her a platform within the IOP.
“Students don't need a ‘both sides’ of this issue, and they don't need to hear from somebody that is actively challenging the election results,” he added.
Stefanik, a former Crimson columnist, could not be reached for comment. In a Wednesday statement, she wrote that the rampage on Capitol Hill marked a “tragic day for America.”
“I fully condemn the dangerous violence and destruction that occurred today at the United States Capitol,” Stefanik wrote. “The perpetrators of this un-American violence and destruction must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
A similar open letter urging Harvard to establish “accountability guidelines” for inviting former Trump administration officials to campus was formally sent to University administrators on Wednesday.
University spokesperson Jason A. Newton acknowledged that the University had received the open letter, but did not provide further comment.
—Staff writer Alex Koller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Taylor C. Peterman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @taylorcpeterman.
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