Dear fellow Harvard students,
Many of you are trying to figure out what Occupy Harvard is all about and who we are. We want to let you know that, whatever you have heard, we are a group of fellow students and faculty who believe in peaceful protest.
Harvard does many wonderful things. These things, including Harvard’s generous undergraduate financial aid packages, are to be commended. But Harvard is also responsible for a lot of suffering. Because we are part of this institution and want it to be the best it can be, we are asking Harvard, out of love, to do better.
Harvard workers are our fellow community members. When the administration gives them inadequate benefits, doesn’t respect seniority, arbitrarily fires, or underemploys these workers, our community becomes a colder place. Harvard custodians are currently struggling to negotiate a fair contract. The administration has claimed that its workers are treated fairly, but we all know our custodial workers are reasonable people – they wouldn’t be complaining if they were treated properly. The well-being of students is very important to the administration. Why not the well-being of workers?
As students, many of whom pay tuition, we have a right to know where our money is being invested. Since Harvard represents us and is a non-profit organization dedicated to the public good, we are sad to learn about investments in hotel chains that mistreat workers, extraction companies that devastate the American landscape with mountaintop-removal, and hedge funds that displace farmers in developing countries. Surely Harvard can invest in socially responsible companies and still maintain a healthy endowment.
Harvard graduates go on to do great things in their fields. But we cannot ignore the fact that a disproportionate number of the people working on Wall Street who devastated our economy and caused the current recession were educated here too. Harvard needs to reexamine the values it is instilling in its students when so many of us go on to generate profits at the expense of working people. Harvard cannot expect to speak with moral authority when its labor practices, investments, and many of its graduates do so much harm.
Occupy Harvard deeply regrets that the administration has made your lives less convenient by only opening certain gates and requiring an ID. Their argument that it is for your safety is puzzling. In past occupations of Harvard Yard – most recently in 1986 and in 2001, the university did not employ these tactics and the students were safe. Furthermore, those who are afraid of open gates should remember that the gates are usually open, and under usual conditions, the Yard is a safe place.
The administration is trying to portray us as scary and threatening, but we are just fellow community members – many of us students you might see in your dining hall, in classes, or at a Friday night rager. We appreciate your support. If you don’t want to protest with us, we understand. But there’s no reason to be afraid of us or hostile toward us. We want our tent city to be a new student center for discussion and action on the issues you care about. There are many ways to get involved without camping out – for more information, please check out our website: occupyharvard.net (we have a great FAQ section!). See you in the Yard!