Open Discourse Coalition appoints 2020 election denier to fellowship

Jaxon White, Editor in Chief

A local freedom of speech nonprofit has announced that a former member of Congress will fill an advisory position within the organization.

The Open Discourse Coalition has named former U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, a Republican from Pennsylvania who voted to overturn the certification of the state’s electoral college votes in 2020, as its public policy fellow. 

“What I’m bringing to this is the experience of somebody who worked in the private sector, somebody that was in Harrisburg, and the General Assembly and somebody that served in Congress,” Keller said to The Bucknellian. “I’m excited to be able to be part of helping lineup topics, and individuals to come in and have the dialogue and really discuss the issues that are before us.” 

Keller was elected to represent Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District in a special election in 2019 and was reelected in 2020. After redistricting split his district in 2022, Keller did not seek reelection. Keller was one of 147 Republicans that voted to reject the 2020 presidential election results. 

“I’m gonna focus on making sure that we have dialogue that brings all the perspectives to the table, and it’s civil. And that’s who I am,” Keller said, responding to a question about student and faculty perceptions of his 2020 election vote. 

“So I would say that we should look at the fact that here’s an organization that wants to present all sides of an issue,” he continued. “And have good dialogue, and try to understand the issue from other people’s perspectives.”

The Open Discourse Coalition is formally unaffiliated with Bucknell University, but according to their website, the group “…supports people and organizations in the Bucknell community who share our values.” Also, a number of members on their advisory board are alumni and donors to the university.

When asked if hiring Keller means that the Open Discourse Coalition supports the false election denier theories, Executive Director Dawn Toguchi said the organization does not take positions on “political beliefs, personal beliefs or economic beliefs.” 

“Whether it’s members of Congress or your classmates, there’s still a lot of disagreement in our country, around that,” Toguchi said. “Our position is that open discourse is best and that more viewpoints are better than less.” 

The organization also announced that state Rep. Jared Solomon, a Democrat from Philadelphia County, will take over as its Bipartisan Fellow. 

Solomon will speak in a panel discussion about bipartisanship reform on March 23 called “Progress over Party.” Attempts to speak with Solomon for comment were unsuccessful. 

Jack Strauss ’24, secretary for the Bucknell Conservative Club, said that the club supports both appointments made by the Open Discourse Coalition. 

“Our support comes as both representatives have done great work for Pennsylvania and are highly qualified for their new positions,” Strauss said, in an emailed statement. “Representative Keller’s views and position on the 2020 election results do not affect the conservative clubs’ support in his posting as a new fellow. Representative Keller is extremely qualified to be the Public Policy fellow at the ODC, as while he was in office, he was a part of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, the House Education and Labor Committee, and the House Energy Action Team.” 

A representative for the Bucknell University Democratic Socialists could not be reached for comment in time for publication.

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