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October 27, 2016

New IOP Series Aims to Examine Politics, Identity

Starting next week, the University of Chicago Institute of Politics (IOP) will launch a bi-weekly discussion-based program called “Politics and Identity” (P&I).  

The aim of these discussions will be to combine the realms of politics and social identity as one unanimous conversation, disregarding racial, gender, religious and LGBTQ+ barriers.  

P&I will be completely student-led so that the diverse opinions within the student body can be equally heard. Students will be able to submit topics that will be discussed via polls open to the general student population. The discussions themselves will be moderated by six student facilitators, who received training late last year. 

Keeping the intimate atmosphere amongst students is a key aspect, according to Anthony Downer, the chair of the Leaders of Color Initiative (LOC). “We want students to be able to verbally validate their experiences and their identity, what they've gone through, their backgrounds, what they've gone through here at the university, because we think that’s so fundamentally important for us to share who we are with each other,” Downer said. 

Both Downer and Morganne Ramsey, the politics and identity coordinator, agree that there currently isn’t an outlet at the University where students can engage in this manner. While there are many RSOs that focus on social identity or politics, P&I intends to embody both interests in one program.   

Using the chosen topic as a guideline, the discussions will be open to all opinions. According to Downer, the goal is “to encourage all students to come together and just talk to each other.” The further understanding of the topical question itself, as well as the varying perspectives of participating students, is at the core of P&I.   

Originally, the idea of P&I was proposed to the IOP by a student who was affiliated with the Politics of Race and Ethnicity Initiative (PRE) at Harvard. Through PRE, students participate in year-long cohorts, examining topics relevant to race, ethnicity, and politics. This structure closely resembles what the LOC cohorts organize; however, PRE is more broad in the subjects discussed. Due to the similarities, LOC was designated with overseeing P&I as a newfound club, encompassing the ideals of both entities involved. 

Faculty and guest speakers will also be brought in once or twice a month, in partnership with the IOP and Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. The students’ opinions will be the aim of the discussions, rather than the lecture a specific guest might produce. 

“We hope to foster a cohort-like experience, where we have a group of regulars. But we also hope that people just submit the [topic] that they want to come to. And maybe they’ll only come to that one, but they got to talk about something they wanted to talk about. And I think as long as that happens, that’s all that matters for us,” Ramsey said. 

Editor’s Note: Morganne Ramsey is a Head Copy Editor at The Maroon.  

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