Bet on the IOP


By Cristina Garmendia, MPP ‘13

The Institute of Politics (IOP) is housed within the Harvard Kennedy School in Littauer but organizes events for the benefit of the entire Cambridge and Boston community. Executive Director Cathy McLaughlin reports that the IOP mailing list gets sent to 7200 people. In contrast, the Forum space only holds 750 people. Some students may wonder, how does the IOP manage to fairly apportion tickets for high-demand events?

For events where student interest is anticipated to exceed seating capacity, IOP implements an electronic lottery system that randomly selects the people to receive tickets, which in turn must be picked up in person at a specified time.  One applies for the lottery exclusively online at the IOP website. The application system differentiates between student categories (undergraduate, Kennedy School student, or other graduate program) and the general public. Kennedy School students may be surprised to find that the IOP weights their lotteries, with KSG students usually holding a statistical advantage over graduate students in other Harvard programs. If demand is heavily skewed towards Kennedy School students, however, IOP will take that into consideration and adjust categorical quotas. Lotteries are up for two or three days and then close, without exceptions. To keep up to date on events: sign up for the newsletter, follow IOP on twitter (@JFKJrForum, @HarvardIOP), and read the posted notices around the Kennedy School campus.

As much as some unlucky students may malign the lottery, the IOP finds it far preferable to older methods. McLaughlin recalls, “We used to have students physically sign up with a pen, in person.” A staff member would pick a number and every nth person would get chosen. Thankfully, the computer system is much more efficient, ensuring the fair distribution of tickets across categories, preventing duplicate entries, and lessening the burden of security measures.  If a student is not available to pick up on the day tickets are distributed, the ticket shall is automatically forfeited to the next person in line. Students should be sure to be prompt if they don’t want a lottery victory to slip through their fingers!

The IOP has another tip for new students, as well: be mic-aware. The signature characteristic of Forum events is that speakers are required to take questions from the audience during the last half of the event. How can you best ensure your question will be one of them? People will be allowed to line up at the four microphones (two on each floor) once the moderator announces it is time for Q&A. Arrive early and sit near to a microphone. Don’t be shy or you shall suffer mightily to watch a freshman mess up IOP protocol by failing to ask a question in their soliloquy. As you will be reminded at the event, a question is a short statement with a question at the end.

The first ticketed event of the school year is on September 23 with the current President of Chile, H.E. Sebastián Piñera. The lottery closed today, September 20 (sorry!). Every event is streamed live online and the archives are located on the IOP website.

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