A Message to the IOP Community


Dear Members of the IOP Community:
I write after a week that has left many of us angry and sickened following the recent brutal killing of George Floyd. Like Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many others, these tragic acts of injustice are yet another reminder of anti-black racism that pervades our society and our power structures. I am heartbroken for their families and loved ones and all those feeling the pain brought by the horrors of these deaths. 
At this time in our nation’s civic life — we must not be silent or removed. We must do all we can to confront the scourge of racism, speak out, and put our pain and energy into action. As Dean Claudine Gay wrote: “We are confronted again by old hatreds and the enduring legacies of anti-black racism and inequality. It’s a familiarity that makes me deeply restless for change.”
In thinking of that restlessness for change, I was reminded of James Baldwin’s reflection: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Baldwin’s quote was brought home to me with the activism of Seth Towns, a member of the Harvard Class of 2020. On Thursday, I was privileged to preside over the Winthrop House Commencement as Faculty Dean where Seth’s name was read as he received his Harvard degree. On Friday, Seth was detained at a protest against police violence in Columbus, Ohio and posted on social media: “In a span of just 24 hours, I walked across a Harvard virtual graduation stage into the back of a police van alongside other peaceful protestors – both of which I am equally proud of.”    
I am proud of Seth’s activism and his commitment. And I am grateful for the good work of so many students at the IOP who have worked hard to ensure that our community is an inclusive and welcoming one. Our Exec Team, led by Mari Jones ’21 and Jasmine Hyppolitte ’21, has appropriately focused their leadership on issues of diversity, inclusion, and belonging, and our Politics of Race and Ethnicity co-chairs Busola Banjoh ’22 and Jacob Blair ’22 have put together a thoughtful resource guide. In the coming days, we will create spaces for reflection, dialogue, support, and action within our staff and student community. If you seek support at this hard time, please reach out to your friends and colleagues at the College —including the resources provided at Harvard’s Counseling and Mental Health Services.
I believe the mission and work of the Institute of Politics could not be more important. We have the opportunity to foster a community that stands in solidarity with all those directly impacted at this time, to express our outrage and frustration, and to work together to lift up our civic and political life. We have the opportunity to stand as a beacon of hope nationally  - where college students’ voices are heard and engaged in the important issues of our time.
Mark D. Gearan '78
Director, Institute of Politics