Occupy Harvard Statement of Principles

We are Occupy Harvard. We want a university for the 99%, not a corporation for the 1%.

We are here in solidarity with the Occupy movement to protest the corporatization of higher education, epitomized by Harvard University.

We see injustice in the 180:1 ratio between the compensation of Harvard’s highest-paid employee—the head of internal investments at Harvard Management Company—and the lowest-paid employee, an entry-level custodial worker. We see injustice in Harvard’s adoption of corporate efficiency measures such as job outsourcing. We see injustice in African land grabs that displace local farmers and devastate the environment. We see injustice in 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. We see injustice in Harvard’s lack of financial transparency and its prevention of student and community voice in these investments.

We stand in solidarity with Occupy Boston and the other occupations throughout the country. We stand in solidarity with students at other universities who suffer crushing debt burdens and insufficient resources. We stand in solidarity with the students who occupied Massachusetts Hall one decade ago, and we continue their pursuit of justice for workers. We stand in solidarity with all those in Boston and beyond who clamor for equity. We are the 99%.

A university for the 99% must settle a just contract with Harvard’s custodial workers. A university for the 99% must adopt a new transparency policy, including disclosure of Harvard’s current investments as well as a commitment to not reinvest in HEI Hotels & Resorts or in land-grabbing hedge funds like Emergent Asset Management. Further,

A university for the 99% would offer academic opportunities to assess responses to socioeconomic inequality outside the scope of mainstream economics.

A university for the 99% would implement debt relief for students who suffer from excessive loan burdens.

A university for the 99% would commit to increasing the diversity of Harvard’s graduate school faculty and students.

A university for the 99% would end the privilege enjoyed by legacies in the Harvard admissions process.

A university for the 99% would implement a policy requiring faculty to declare conflicts of interest.

Our statement of principles is subject to change by the Occupy Harvard General Assemblies.

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16 comments on “Occupy Harvard Statement of Principles

  1. […] these investments, and other university practices. Our entire statement of principles can be found here on our website. Share:FacebookTwitterEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in […]

  2. EH says:

    “We want a university for the 99%, not a corporation for the 1%.”

    While I can understand and sympathize with some of your principles, a blanket statement like the above really offends me. By claiming that Harvard is not for the 99%, you disregard the fact that Harvard has one of the best financial aid systems in the world, the most socioeconomic and ethnic diversity of all similar colleges, and the fact that policies like these give opportunities for those who aren’t in the 1% economic bracket – and ultimately help close the existing socioeconomic equalities out there.

  3. Liz says:

    Hi EH,

    Thanks for your comment and for visiting our website!

    I certainly can’t respond for the group, but I do have a personal response as a graduate student at Harvard. You’re absolutely correct, the college does have excellent financial aid services. However, the university, given the size of its endowment, the number of people it employs, and the number of graduate students (a number that is larger than that of undergraduates, none of whom have access to college financial aid programs), can do a lot more to reduce socioeconomic inequality in our community. At the Kennedy school, there are only 3 African American students among the 250 total students in the current MPP2 class. The debt burden for graduating medical students (of which I am one) is so significant for so many students, that it pushes students into high paying specialties (e.g. dermatology) instead of specialties that may be more critical to serving the immediate needs of our community. I am not saying that all HMS grads should chose primary care just because there is an alarming shortage of primary care providers, but I do think that Harvard should look to be creating leaders in the healthcare field. To do so, they should provide financial aid services at the graduate student level that allow students to chose specialties based on passion, commitment and academic interest, not based on financial necessity.

    Thanks again for your thoughts!
    Liz

  4. Y says:

    A university for the 99% would offer academic opportunities to assess responses to socioeconomic inequality outside the scope of mainstream economics.

    You mean like this one?

    [United States in the World 17 (formerly Social Analysis 72). Economics: A Critical Approach]
    Catalog Number: 1885
    Stephen A. Marglin (Economics)
    Half course (fall term). M., W., (F.), 1–2:30, and a weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 6, 7
    This course critically examines the assumptions of modern economics and how these assumptions mold the ideas and conclusions of the discipline. A principal question is the appropriate scope of the market. This question will be examined both theoretically and through examples drawn from both microeconomics and macroeconomics; possible examples include health care, the environment, international trade, social security, and financial crisis and unemployment.
    Note: Expected to be given in 2012–13. Primarily taught in lectures, with section meetings offering a chance both to clarify concepts and to discuss applications. Calculus is not used, and there is no mathematics prerequisite. Unlike Economics 10, this course does not fulfill the introductory course requirement for the Economics Department. Moreover, most upper level courses in Economics normally require Economics 10 as a prerequisite; without this prerequisite, enrollment is at the discretion of the instructor. This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Social Analysis.

  5. M says:

    Although I sympathize with the frustrations that have led to the greater Occupy Wall Street movement, I find it difficult to understand some of the arguments made by Occupy Harvard.

    One must remember that Harvard, while a noble place dedicated to educating young minds, is at its core a business. Although Occupy Harvard complains Harvard is “corporate”, the reality is that at the end of the fiscal quarter, the numbers must match up.

    One can’t have one’s cake and eat it too. A living wage is certainly something to strive for, but I would argue that the lowest paid employee, who, according to the googling I’ve done, earns about $40,000 a year, makes much more than the average custodial worker. Should we increase the wage for custodial employees? We could. But we would diverting funds from other, arguably more important milieus, such as teaching, the University’s main goal, financial aid, and research.

    Harvard must cut costs. It must complete its “non-core” activities as efficiently as possible. If it doesn’t, and isn’t able to balance its budget, Harvard will cease to exist.

    On another note, Occupy Harvard has gone about the occupation the wrong way. It’s great to have a meaningful dialogue. I think we’ve been having that discussion for several years. And yet, I fail to see how erecting a tent city in the middle of Harvard Yard, ruining Diversitas for all those who worked hard to prepare for what could have been an even more meaningful event, and “storming the castle” with such brutality that HUPD had to shut down the yard, is, quite frankly, disgraceful.

    Harvard is a living, breathing place. I pay tuition to learn here (god forbid someone does!). When Occupy Harvard becomes less about having a dialogue and more about creating a scene and interrupting the daily flow of activities, like loud protesting in front of Freshman dorms late in to the night when many have 5:45AM practice the following morning, the movement loses its legitimacy.

    -A College Freshman

  6. Q says:

    Dear M,

    A dining hall worker who works overtime for a full year makes ~$20,000. Drew Faust’s move-in bonus was $80,000. You can google to the move-in bonus, I spoke to dining hall workers to figure out how much they get paid.

    Yours,
    Alum

    • Frustrated says:

      FYI, a 2 second Google search reveals that in 2006, dining hall workers were earning $31,000 plus $13,000 in benefits. Some fact checking would make this “Statement of Principles” a bit more convincing.

  7. STOP THE OCCUPATION NOW says:

    If you don’t like being in the 1%, quit Harvard.

  8. OneofHarvard's99% says:

    Guys, I respect the degree to which you all want to stand up for your principles, but I still think you’ve gone about it in a way that’s completely unfair to everyone else at Harvard. Yes, you are citizens of the United States (or the World), with responsibilities to uphold justice. But you’re also members of the Harvard Community, and you have responsibilities toward your fellow community members. It’s not fair at all that, because of your radicalism, everyone else should have to suffer. It’s not fair that we have to show up late to class, take roundabout routes, go through a difficult process to get visitors through, and have our safety endangered. How can you claim that we should not be concerned about our safety, when your supporters tried to force themselves into the Yard, and when others vandalized flyers that petitioned not for your silencing, but for your relocation? My personal disagreements with your ideas notwithstanding, I implore you to relocate- I would ask the same of any group, whether an Occupy Movement or a Tea Party rally. You owe it to your fellow students (most of whom enjoy financial aid), faculty members (of whom the majority would actually share your general beliefs), and, yes, the workers whom you pretend to help. You are responsible for the 99% in your community first, and the 99% of the world second. We are the ones whom your actions affect most.

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