University News

College Hill activists eye Occupy Harvard

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Protesters who descended on Harvard Yard Nov. 9 to bring the Occupation to the world’s most prestigious university were met with stringent security. As a group of would-be Occupiers linked arms and tried to enter the Yard, police closed the gates, “crushing the students caught between the bars,” said Jeff Bridges, a third-year student at the Harvard Divinity School and a member of the media relations working group for Occupy Harvard. Students managed to get past security checkpoints and set up around 20 tents.

While the students injuried were minor, Bridges said they were “more than a Harvard student should experience trying to get into his or her school.”

Checkpoints have been erected at every entrance to Harvard Yard since then, and police are denying entrance to anyone without Harvard identification. “(This) is clearly about public relations and not on safety,” Bridges said.

The decision to prevent outsiders from entering the Yard is based on “troubling incidents at other Occupy sites,” according to a page on the Harvard website dedicated to questions about the Occupation.

This makes Harvard “the most exclusive Occupation in the country,” Bridges said. “Sorry Brown students, Harvard won’t let you in.”

Occupy Harvard stemmed from student participation in Occupy Boston.

“As the second-largest nonprofit corporation in the world, aside from the Roman Catholic Church, there’s a lot more Harvard can do,” he added.

The Harvard Occupiers rallied to support custodians in contract negotiations, which have since reached a “tentative agreement,” according to the Occupy Harvard website.

Among other grievances, the site disparages Harvard’s investment in “private equity firms such as HEI Hotels and Resorts, which profits off the backbreaking labor of a non-union immigrant workforce.” Brown has also taken flack for its investments in HEI, and the University’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies recommended last year against reinvesting with the company.

“As institutions that educate the future leaders of our country, they ought to be setting a better example,” Bridges said.

The concerns of Harvard Occupiers are similar to those voiced by Occupy College Hill, which urged members of the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, to disclose investment practices and work to align investments with the University’s ideals at its One Night Stand held on the Main Green last month.

In light of the recent occupation of Harvard Yard, members of Occupy College Hill are considering a similar permanent Occupation on campus.

“I can’t say that it’s necessarily going to happen but there are people that want it,” said Luke Lattanzi-Silveus ’14. He stressed the importance of including faculty, Facilities Management workers and local community members­ in any efforts to reform the University.

The Occupation would also be a great way to involve students who are currently apathetic about the movement, Lattanzi-Silveus added. “In spite of the fact that there’s an Occupy so close, it tends to become somewhat of an abstract Occupation. It would be interesting if there would be a concrete Occupation to point to.”

“It makes so much sense for these elite institutions to have these Occupies,” said Annie Rose London ‘11.5. “We’re really in the belly of the beast.”

 “One of the main reasons we decided to Occupy Harvard was to bring attention to the corporatization of higher education, not just at Harvard but across the country,” said Harvard sophomore Sandra Korn, a member of the movement’s media outreach group. “Brown pretty much does exactly the same. I think it would be a really strong statement if an Occupation started at Brown as well.”

“I think it would be really valuable to the movement,” London said. “It’s going to happen eventually.”

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