Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images.
Want to Occupy Harvard Yard? Make sure you have a valid university ID.
The first night of the Occupy Harvard protests become something of a private event Wednesday when campus police temporarily limited access to Harvard Yard exclusively to those with school ID cards. According to the Boston Globe, several hundred protesters were locked out of the gated yard when they tried to re-enter, following an earlier rally near the Harvard Law School. Inside the yard, student protesters erected tents, at least 20 of them.
The Globe reports that about 200 students attended the suddenly exclusive protest, setting up tents in front of the university’s main administrative building. A Harvard dean attempted to convince the group to move their tents to a less prominent location, but the students voted to stay put.
Nicandro G. L. Iannacci expressed the students' frustrations over the locked gates to the Harvard Crimson, like so: "I think it’s absurd. Do we really need eight guards per gate?" For its part, the university cited safety concerns as the reason for the temporary shutdown of the pedestrian-heavy campus space.
Wednesday's demonstration wasn't Harvard students' first foray into the Occupy movement. A group previously staged a walkout of a popular economics class to protest what they saw as biased teachings, and others have participated in the ongoing protests in and around Boston.
Timothy P. McCarthy, a Harvard Law School lecturer explained the relevance of a school-specific Occupy protest to the Crimson: "If Harvard is going to be a place that produces people with power, then Harvard must be an institution where the public good is more important than private profit."
Harvard students are focusing their occupation on the practices and culture of their institution, lamenting the "corporatization of higher education, epitomized by Harvard University," according to a press release published by the movement on Thursday. Their main areas of concern are the university’s investments, and the pay of the school's service workers. The Globe points out that the protest was "explicitly timed to coincide" with the university's negotiations with a local service workers union.
The demands are more or less identical to previous and ongoing student efforts on behalf of Harvard workers, including those of a 2001 student-led tent city in the Harvard Yard during a three-week sit-in by the Harvard Living Wage Campaign, as photographed in Gregory Halpern’s 2003 book Harvard Works Because We Do.
The university released a statement citing the efforts the institution has already made to increase quality of life for its lowest-paid workers: "The custodians have seen a 36 percent increase in their hourly wages since 2005, and the university already pays more to cover their health care benefits than many other institutions."