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Three student leaders resigned from the Harvard Institute of Politics’ Student Advisory Committee, writing in a statement that they were “ashamed” the committee decided against “publicly condemning the terrorist attacks on Israel.”
In a statement to IOP-affiliated students Friday published through the Harvard Political Union, Robert Fogel ’25 and Ryan P. Tierney ’24, co-chairs of the JFK Jr. Forum Committee, and Theo J. Harper ’25, chair of the HPU, wrote they could not continue to “in good conscience, serve on a collective body that chooses silence.”
According to the statement, only 17.9 percent of students voted to adopt a statement of any kind.
“To say we are disgusted is an understatement. Silence is complicity. Silence is irreconcilable with the principle of moral conviction,” the students wrote in their statement. “Silence is why many students do not feel safe at Harvard right now.”
After the statement’s release, the IOP executive team — Amen H. Gashaw ’24, IOP president; Pratyush Mallick ’25, IOP vice president; Carter G. Demaray ’25, treasurer; and Ethan C. Kelly ’25, communications director — wrote in a statement that the SAC “heavily” weighed their options before opting not to issue an official statement on the invasion.
“We unequivocally condemn all acts of terror and violence against civilians in Israel and Palestine and are unified in our deep sadness at the challenging events that have faced our campus,” the executive team wrote in a statement to The Crimson.
The executive team consists of the body’s top elected leaders, whereas the student advisory committee is a broader group of affiliated students making up program leadership.
After a series of deliberations between SAC members on issuing a statement that condemned the loss of civilian life in both Israel and Gaza, members grew divided over including the word “terrorism,” the students wrote. Some also argued against mentioning Hamas, the Islamist militant group that invaded Israel on Oct. 7.
“Some claimed we should condemn ‘all terrorism,’ or not use the word ‘terrorism’ at all,” they wrote. “Others refused to name Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization whose most recent actions include executing children, raping women, and taking hostages.”
Fogel, Tierney, and Harper wrote that issuing a statement should never have been an issue, citing past political statements after events including the police killing of George Floyd and Supreme Court rulings on abortion and affirmative action.
“Condemning the slaughter of innocents is not political. It is a human obligation,” they wrote.
“The fact that we cannot come together to make a statement that defends our common humanity is deafening. If not now, when? And if not us, who?” the three students added.
Nearly 60 percent of SAC members initially agreed to a statement condemning the attacks and mourning civilian deaths in Israel and Gaza, they wrote, but some members withdrew their support following doxxing and verbal threats faced by students on campus who were affiliated with groups that signed onto a controversial statement that held Israel “entirely responsible” for the ongoing violence.
“We have an unwavering mandate both to preserve student safety and to prevent the fruition of circumstance that might put our members and student leaders in danger,” the IOP executive team wrote Friday evening.
However, Fogel, Tierney, and Harper wrote they believe inaction will only worsen the situation.
“Doxxing, verbal or physical threats, and Islamophobia of any kind are abhorrent and must be condemned,” they wrote. “Nothing condemning terrorism, however, puts students at risk.”
The statement, which its writers noted was not intended to “condemn students on the SAC,” called for Harvard affiliates to mend divides and come together during these difficult times.
“Singular action will not solve the crisis of conviction that exists at Harvard. A broader shift to greater empathy and an ethic of courage is necessary,” they wrote.
Though they have resigned from the IOP’s student governing board, Fogel, Tierney, and Harper wrote that they will retain their respective student program chair roles.
“We will continue in our roles as program chairs, not only because we care for our communities, but also because promoting dialogue and discussion is essential in moments like these,” they wrote.
The executive team wrote that they intend to meet with Fogel, Tierney, and Harper as a part of the IOP’s continued efforts to “take steps that foster a safe and welcoming environment.”
“We look forward to having an intentional and thoughtful dialogue with Rob, Ryan, and Theo that will move us forward,” they wrote.
—Staff writer Asher J. Montgomery contributed reporting.
Editor’s Note: Readers should note that premoderation has been turned on for online commenting on this article out of concerns for student safety.
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