Occupy Movement hits Harvard

Emily Loud and Timur Cetin 17 November 2011

Hundreds of students at Harvard University have set up tents at Harvard Yard in solidarity with the Occupy Movement, which rose to prominence with Occupy Wall Street in September.

The group of students are protesting against the commercialisation of higher education and the “corporatisation” of their own university.

In a press release, the group repeatedly called for the “a university of the 99%”, denouncing the disproportionate gap between the highest and lowest paid employees of the university.

The group also called for transparency regarding the university’s financial policy and investments, with particular reference to HEI Hotels and Resorts, a company reportedly invested by Harvard which makes “profits off the backbreaking labour of a non-union immigrant workforce”.

Other issues being campaigned for include financial support for indebted students and a change in the discriminatory admissions process, which currently favours students with parents who had already been at Harvard and given donations. Solidarity protests at Harvard were under way weeks before the emergence of the Occupy Harvard movement. In an undergraduate economics lecture held by star economist Professor Nicholas Mankiw, more than 70 students walked out to protest the course’s conservative bias and capitalist ideology, seen as the cause of the 2008 financial crisis.

However, not everyone on campus has expressed sympathy for the protest. Evan Ribot, a writer for the Harvard student newspaper The Crimson called the protesters a “self-righteous band”, arguing that “to ask for Harvard for the 99 percent is to denounce that capital, to devalue a Harvard degree, and to clamour for an institution that isn’t as special as the one we attend.”

In response to the inconvenience of the protestersā€˜location, a university student started an online petition on Sunday to remove the protests from the Yard, which now has more than 600 signatures.

Other high-ranking universities in the US have followed suit. At Yale, a group of students protested against an information session held by Morgan Stanley on Tuesday, while at Columbia University more than 300 faculty members signed a petition to express solidarity and support for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Emily Loud and Timur Cetin