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Historic Harvard Yard occupied

Published Nov 16, 2011 9:52 PM

On Nov. 9, some 400 students, workers, faculty and their supporters rallied at Harvard University with plans to occupy historic Harvard Yard. The administration responded by shutting down the Yard and locking all the gates, allowing no one in or out.

Harvard Yard, besides being where all the first-year students live, is the nerve center for the university’s top administration. The university president, the deans and the Harvard Corporation — its seven members all representatives of the ruling class — all have offices in the Yard, where they direct Harvard as the major school of the U.S. capitalist elite.

The students, unions and supporters rallied all evening despite the lockdown, until they got to erect an occupation camp of 20 tents.

UNITE-HERE Local 26, representing 600 dining hall workers, and Service Employees union Local 615, representing the guards and custodians, are a center of this movement. Grievances by both unions helped spark the demands of the students. Harvard has called for an austerity program to cut benefits and enforce speedups. The unions have responded with militant actions.

The Harvard Corporation is made up of former executives of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Citigroup. They have pilfered Harvard’s huge endowment fund and now demand takebacks from the workers and students.

The mission statement of the Harvard occupation is to “make Harvard a school for the 99%, not the 1%.” The occupation shows that Harvard may bring in students from the 99%, but its research and education are geared to produce mostly what Wall Street wants. The Business and Law schools dominate Harvard and lead it in Wall Street’s direction.

It has been pointed out by faculty that if Harvard were to be used for the good of the 99%, many major crises in the world, especially around health care and the AIDS epidemic, would be closer to eradication.

Reflecting the strength of the occupation, hundreds of custodians, led by International President Mary Kay Henry and with support from students and other unions, have voted to strike Harvard if the administration continues its austerity attack during contract negotiations.

Ed Childs is a chief steward with UNITE-HERE Local 26.