25 Years Later… Still Radical!

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If you were in the area this past week you might have noticed the hubbub surrounding Commencement and Alumni Weekend activities. Congratulations to the graduating class of 2012, and welcome back alumni!

An amazing Alum (’87) produced these lovely Occupy Harvard t-shirts to commemorate all the radical Harvard alumni who came to town this weekend for their 25th reunion. They sold like hotcakes and we were thrilled to run into alumni wearing their Occupy Harvard shirts on campus all weekend long. We have a few left and we’re happy to ship them to any alums from the class of 87′ who weren’t able to make it to the reunion ($25, postage included; we can mail them anywhere in the US). To purchase, please email Occupy.Harvard@gmail.com.

The shirts were produced by No-Sweat, a local, SEIU-affiliated, 100% union made and locally owned & operated! (And did we mention they’re Occupy supporters?).

All shirts are black, 100% cotton.

On the back, most have the phrase “25 Years Later… Still Radical” to commemorate the class of ’87. We have a VERY limited number of shirts that don’t say anything on the back. Inquire if interested in either version.

Email Occupy.Harvard@gmail.com to purchase.

Huge thanks again to our lovely donor!


Restructuring of Harvard Libraries: Who Decides?

Occupy Harvard received the following op-ed from a worker in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences on the restructuring of Harvard Libraries.  Originally written for The Harvard Crimson, she submitted it to Occupy Harvard instead so she could remain anonymous. Concerned about how protected her free speech really is on campus and, like so many of the library staff currently under threat, she worries how words such as these might affect her job. Library workers have described a climate of fear and insecurity surrounding the library transition that has made them reluctant to publicly voice their criticisms of the transition and of the administration.


Restructuring of Harvard Libraries: Who Decides?

by a Clerical Worker in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard

A Harvard undergraduate said to me in a recent conversation that while he and his friends oppose the restructuring of Harvard Libraries as it’s being presented, they are having trouble pinpointing which aspects of the transition to the new library system are most problematic. There are so many technicalities: going from many decentralized libraries to a centralized Harvard Library; the new governance of the libraries; efficiency; shared services; digitization; outsourcing; early retirement of staff; layoffs. How is one to know if these are worthwhile moves or fundamentally detrimental? He further said that President Drew Faust and Provost Alan Garber’s messages to the Harvard community on the restructuring were so vague that it was hard to make sense of what’s happening.

The answer I gave to my undergraduate friend was in the form of a question: Who decides? This is the decisive issue and where the conflict ultimately lies. Harvard’s students, faculty, and staff have little control over the decisions that affect their work and lives, which is a completely untenable situation.

The simple yet important question of “Who decides?” opens up to many more: Did the faculty who depend on the library system have any substantive say on the restructuring? Were students and researchers asked how the libraries can best serve them? And what about the library workers? Was their knowledge of the current shape of the libraries a factor in the restructuring? Was their expertise on how to improve the libraries ever considered? The answer to all these questions is quite simply no, not in any meaningful way.

At the heart of this restructuring fiasco is the fundamental problem of who wields decision-making power at the university. That is, who has the power to make decisions that affect the libraries and the lives of everyone involved and to what end are these decisions being made. Who made the decision that library staff should be cut and why? Where did the directive come from? What are the guiding principles for such decisions? Were these decisions made openly, transparently, democratically? To whom are these mysterious, unknown decision-makers accountable? To the members of the Harvard community? To hedge fund managers? To “efficiency” experts and consultants? Whom? It’s about as clear as mud and it seems the administration wants to keep it that way.

There is neither an academic nor an ethical justification to cut the library staff. Such a loss would only serve to further undermine the library collections and hemorrhage library operations. The aim of the restructuring is cost-cutting pure and simple and our library workers are being treated as lines on a ledger and not as the living human beings who make our libraries the premier institutions they are. The Library Transition Team’s talk of efficiency is disingenuous and a distraction. We are headed towards the further erosion of the quality and quantity of services provided by the libraries–that is, doing less with less. Is this what we want as a research community?

I remind readers that Harvard has an academic and ethical imperative not a corporate imperative. Libraries and universities provide a social service; they are not businesses that function on the basis of profit and should not be treated as such.

So how can Harvard faculty, students, and staff begin to gain control over the decisions that affect their work and lives? As an initial step they are getting together at an open forum on Tuesday, April 10 at 5:00 pm in the Barker Center to independently and critically examine the issues surrounding the library restructuring. Come and participate in this important discussion.

Forum on the Future of Harvard Libraries

Pressure has continued to build against the threat of layoffs for workers in Harvard’s library system. Workers, students and faculty aired their grievances at a Speak Out organized by the No Layoffs Campaign on March 27th with support from activists in Occupy and the Student Labor Action Movement. In an important next step, the emerging coalition concerned with the future of Harvard’s libraries has come together to organize an open forum on library restructuring, solidifying the alliance between workers, students and faculty opposed to the cuts to library staff and services.

For those unable to participate in person on Tuesday, April 10th at 5 pm, questions, concerns, and issues with the libraries can be submitted online at the Library Forum Website.

The Library Forum will be hosted independently by a coalition of concerned students, workers and faculty. Please help cover the costs of by contributing here. 

The Harvard Library Transition Team has been developing plans for a new
integrated Harvard Library, using the business model of “shared services.”
The aim of the library restructuring appears to be simple cost cutting
rather than meeting the needs of our research community, as evidenced by
the threatened layoffs of library workers at Town Hall meetings in January.
Decisions are being made without any meaningful consultation with faculty
and student researchers and the library staff who support them.

Can the university reduce library staff and still meet its commitments to
researchers in the wide variety of disciplines represented at Harvard? Come
participate in a conversation with students, faculty, library
professionals, and library support staff who are concerned about the fate
of the Harvard Libraries.

When: Tuesday, April 10, 5-7pm
Where: Barker Center, Thompson Room, 12 Quincy Street

Currencies dis/Conference with David Graeber


Currencies are telling of our current time. Debt, labor, commodification, ownership, and consumerism structure and characterize contemporary life and academia. From the monetization and protection of intellectual property to the debts that students accrue, from the exploitation of adjunct labor to the re-productions of class lines, this dis/Conference seeks critical engagement with what has currency and what serves as currency in education and life today.

In contrast to traditional conference formats, this dis/Conference seeks to facilitate open, horizontal education through substantive knowledge sharing, inquiry, critique, and discussion. Together with David Graeber – anarchistoccupier, and anthropologist – we will engage the economies of academia by subverting its dominant forms of knowledge production. In the process, we will participate in the purposeful creation of an alternative model for scholarly engagement, beyond mere discussion. Under this model, our primary resources will be ourselves. Everyone – inside or outside of academia – is welcome.

We invite you to take an active role in shaping and leading this dis/Conference.



Tentative Schedule

12:07  Introduction
12:20 Block I: Provocations
2:00  Graeber comments
2:20  Intermission
3:00  Block 2: Breakout groups
           Work and the Economy
           The Academy
           Representation and Collective Action
           Values, People, and Production
4:00 Spokes format report-back
4:40 Graeber response
5:15 Self-reflexive evaluations & conclusion

5:30 Please join us at the Queen’s Head pub (5 min walk from Northwest labs) for some unstructured, post-conference conferencing!

Speak-Out Against Layoffs and Cuts in Library Services

Tues, March 27, 2012, 12 noon in front of the Science Center.  Join Harvard workers, students, faculty, community to support quality education and to protest layoffs and cuts to library service at Harvard.  There will be testimonials from workers, students and faculty.  Layoffs in 2004 and 2009 damaged Harvard’s libraries.  More layoffs will only mean library services will be further degraded.  For more information see harvardnolayoffs.blogspot.com or e-mail harvardnolayoffs@gmail.com.