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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Tents gone, students turn to Occupy 2.0

Published: February 3, 2012
Section: Front Page

As students and faculty strolled through Harvard Yard carrying cups of Starbucks coffee Tuesday afternoon, gone were the rallying cries to end corporate greed that had rung through campus and the tent donated by MIT students to support Occupy Harvard. The student organizers of the movement, however, claim this intermittent period will enable them to move forward with Occupy 2.0, even at an elite Ivy League institution such as Harvard.

One of the movement’s challenges was addressing skepticism about Harvard’s role in criticizing the 1 percent. “If you have so many issues with the 1 percent, why did you come to Harvard?” Claire McLaughlin ’15 asked.

Other students disagreed, explaining that Harvard’s student body includes students from a wide range of economic backgrounds.

“Yes, Harvard is a bastion of privilege; it gives me access to resources and opportunities to travel on grants. But I am not part of the 1 percent, and I plan on becoming a journalist after I graduate, not part of the 1 percent,” Sandra Korn, an undergraduate organizer of the movement, said. “Like most students, I will be paying back student loans, although people say Harvard has great financial aid. Harvard’s financial aid is not a great force of wealth redistribution.”

Since students have returned from winter break, Occupy Harvard has held two meetings each week to plan the movement’s next phase: Occupy 2.0, Korn explained. “The idea behind Occupy 2.0 is transitioning from our physical encampment to more cohesive, disruptive, interesting, fun, targeted actions,” she said.

Among these actions, Occupy Harvard has begun working on the No Layoffs Campaign with SLAM (Student Labor Action Movement). The No Layoffs Campaign gained considerable attention in 2008 when students participated in a wave of demonstrations as the university laid off several staff workers. This year the campaign aims to protest on behalf of the library staff, many of whom will be laid off due to a restructuring of the library system, according to university administration.

Occupy Harvard has also joined with the Occupy UMass Boston movement only established more than a week ago. Occupy Harvard has lent tents, solidarity signs and other resources to the students at UMass in an effort to show “we are all students fighting the same fight,” Korn said.

Last week Bread and Puppet Theater, a politically radical theater based in Glover, Vt., traveled to Harvard for three performances of Occupy Calisthenics within and surrounding the Harvard campus.

Occupy Harvard released the 2012 Spring Course Catalog Supplement, aiming to “poke fun at Harvard’s serious policies,” Korn said. The introduction to the supplement explained that an additional fee would be charged for producing this supplement, containing courses that were accidentally left out “because we were too busy managing the endowment to proofread it.”

Due to safety risks from high winds, on Jan. 13, Harvard employees and Cambridge police disassembled the geodesic dome that MIT students donated to Occupy Harvard to keep them warm and dry.

Occupy Harvard organizers, however, said there was a discrepancy in communication.

“The groundskeeper said that as long as the dome was staked down and not a safety concern, which is what we were in the process of doing, it was OK. They took it down anyways,” Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington, a graduate student organizer said.

Harvard Police officers and university spokesman Kevin Galvin, declined to comment for this story.

Last semester one could not see the typical sight that one sees now of tourists sightseeing, the elderly woman from Cambridge walking her terrier and the MIT students sitting on stairs. Officials gated the campus and prevented those not affiliated with Harvard from entering Harvard Yard due to safety concerns caused by the Occupy movement.

Regardless, Harvard students uninvolved with the movement noticed little difference between last semester and this one. “It didn’t affect my life whatsoever,” Leanna Herlich, an upperclassman, said.

First-years, whose dorms are located at the site of Occupy Harvard’s encampment and who encountered the protest on a daily basis, expressed relief it was gone. “It was pretty inconvenient, but I feel like a lot of people who were upset with the movement did not understand what they were doing or where they were coming from,” Crimson writer Dan Dou ’15 said.

Other students expressed concern that Occupy Harvard jeopardized the university’s image as Harvard security gated the campus. “It came across like we were keeping everyone out, but in reality it was a security issue,” McLaughlin said. “I don’t want my school to look even more exclusive than it is. That was a concern I had. I also know some tour guides weren’t getting paid because they couldn’t enter the campus. I didn’t want visitors saying, ‘that is soo Hahvard,” McLaughlin said.

Sheehy-Skeffington explained that one of the movement’s main accomplishments last semester was that it shifted public discourse within the Harvard community.

“Occupy Harvard was the most spoken about term in The Crimson. The number one issue was the need to look at what our own role is as an institution. Students now go into the job market knowing there is a sizable amount of classmates that will disapprove of them if they take up investment banking jobs,” Sheehy-Skeffington said. “They need to think twice.”