Harvard Disorientation Guide - Spring 2008

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Harvard Disorientation Guide - Spring 2008

Date

2008

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Cambridge, Massachusetts

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DISORIENTATION
GU DE

Harvard University
Students for a Democratic Society
Spring 2008

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THE APRIL

Preamble

We are a Harvard that endeavors to exist, think, feel, and
love more democratically.
We seek to stand alongside workers,
teachers, and neighbors that all claim
this place as we claim it. Thought,
word, and action bind us to each
other, from a President perched in
her office by day, to the anonymous
custodians who sweep it clean it by
night; from the first-years finding
their feet in the Yard, to the residents
of Allston safeguarding decades of
history and life.
We share, by choice or by chance, a
common path in our journey through
this world.
In this we should find immense courage, inspiration, and power to constitute collectively a more just and
more loving world. So rarely does
this place achieve or even presage
that depth of community. Rather,
we find ourselves frustrated, divided,
and all-too-often defeated.
Harvard promises, in bold and golden phrases, liberation through education. But too often we receive not
lessons of empowerment, but rather
the fearful apologetics of blind obedience to Power. Many here have
had to struggle for barely sufficient
wages, others can imagine no future
except a handful of purposeless careers in finance, and still others are

forced from their homes in the name
of things better and brighter. Even
in these struggles we find ourselves
alone. Where we should discover a
profound siblinghood transcending
class, occupation, race, gender, and
sexuality—contemporary Harvard
divides and conquers us. Where we
seek institutions to bridge the gaping distances that prohibit our coming together, they today loom as
high, tall walls impeding even minimal interactions.
Harvard must change. Yet, if we have
learnt anything from our time here, it
is this: for Harvard to change democratically and positively, we also must
change. We must awaken to the disjointed character of our collective
existence and investigate its individual and institutional origins. We must
imagine what this place could be, and
commit ourselves to its transformation. Such a commitment is at once
individual and social; for while one
cannot individually live as a collective, history also teaches us that one
cannot simply depend on the collective to re-make the individual. Our
critiques of the present and hopes
for the future must thus cultivate the
courage to transform both ourselves
individually, and also the institutions
that order our world.
Thus, this Manifesto is many things: a
critique of Harvard as we exist today;
a statement of hope that another,
more democratic Harvard is possible;
a vision of how we might work to-

DECLARATION
wards that future; and a call to participate collectively in the making of
a new university.
Through it we communicate three
core messages: First, we ask all of us
to become compassionately alive to
the surrounding seas of humanity.
Second, we seek, through this awareness, to sensitize ourselves critically
to the imperfections of the present
and also the urgency of protesting
these imperfections as injustices.
Third, we begin the process of outlining proposals to make real our dream
of a more democratic Harvard—five,
ever-widening conceptual discussions: on pedagogy, administrative
structures, labor relations, surrounding communities, and Harvard vis-àvis the world.
We hope to chart a path towards a
new Harvard, and to inspire the courage in each other to again consciously take up the joyful work of making
Harvard more democratic.
Democratic Hopes and Values
Democracy is the cultivation of a critical awareness of our interconnectivity and the task of discovering in it
the courage, hope, and creativity to
construct a free and fair world.
We strive to embrace, truly and profoundly, the infinite beauty and
worth of every fellow being. This
ethic we establish as the core of our
social outlook—as the soul of our

community. This kind of life demands
that democracy infuse every aspect
of our lives. The full engagement of
each individual to this reality is the
praxis of this vision—in democracy,
we are the meeting of infinities.
From this awareness flows the impulse and capacity for individual
transformation and social courage.
We must not only strive to live more
democratically, but also struggle to
dismantle the entrenched structures
of inequality in our world in order
to make a democratic life more possible. Institutions are undemocratic
when they limit, either deliberately
or inadvertently, the capacity of human beings—or certain groups of
human beings—in their strivings to
become more fully free.
Individual Transformation: Learning
to Live Democratically
We must first confront what Whitman called “sad, serious, deep truths”
at the heart of our current community. We say that Harvard has shaped
us; we say that Harvard represents
us, yet do we actually know one another? Do we enact this possibility in
our daily lives, even falteringly? How
many people do you know as full, authentic, and human individuals? How
many of the workers landscaping the
Yard? How many of your professors?
How many of your Facebook friends?
Is this a community that you might
grow in, that you can trust, that you
can love?

These are terrible questions because
they provoke terrible answers in so
many individual hearts here. Few of
us could authentically claim that we
have experienced Harvard as a human community where all voices are
valued and engaged equally. Few
could claim that students, faculty,
workers, and neighbors form any
coherent or conscious community.
We have been alienated from one
another, occupying self-contained
subworlds, moving in a small circuit
of compartments. And because we
do not know one another, we cannot appreciate one another as infinitely valuable. This segregation and
exclusion dispossesses this place of
immense opportunities for learn-

these blackboards, and guard these
buildings. And we are the neighbors
whose lives have been and are being uprooted by expanding libraries,
labs, and dorms.
We must strive to realize democracy
in the everyday. We must develop urgently new ways of seeing and thus
living. Such a challenge implies very
concrete transformations. We must
reconsider the boundaries of our
current communities, and the hierarchies that impede the constitution
of what they could become. Students
enthusiastically engage fellow students, while impatiently handing IDs
to tired dining hall workers or leaving
dirty classrooms to overworked custodians. Professors profess
a commitment to genuine
pedagogy, yet many cannot find the compassion
to teach us how to be human beings. Administrations proclaim their love of
“diversity” through glossy, glitzy brochures, yet the secret court of the Ad
Board and the exclusion of student,
worker, and community voices from
decisions of significance reeks of hypocrisy of the rankest sort.

want structures that
“ We
serve people, not people
serving structures.


ing, growth, and community. We are
divested of our togetherness, and
thus we cannot realize its beauty and
power. As long as this Harvard persists, we do not and we cannot live as
free human beings.

We call democracy the practical realization of our “interconnectivity”.
At Harvard, this requires that we assert that we are not our libraries, our
classrooms, or our dorms. We are the
students that study in these libraries,
learn in these labs, and sleep in these
dorms. We are the professors that
teach in these classrooms. We are the
workers that mop these floors, wipe

Democracy means, first and most importantly, engaging with all as equals.
It requires us to recognize that we all
have something important to teach
each other. We—students, faculty,
workers, and neighbors—are human
beings, are Harvard. We rely upon
each other. Harvard could not be if
any group of us were not here.

Institutional Transformation:
Cultivating the Possibilities of
Democratic Living
Of course, individual transformation
cannot stand alone. It prefigures
also a challenge to the way most of
us now live at Harvard and the structures that regulate this living. For this
place is not undemocratic simply
because we lack awareness or the
courage to transform ourselves. Real
asymmetries and deeply vested interests maintain structures that nourish anti-democratic dynamics. Thus,
we must also struggle to remake the
institutions that delimit our lives.

A strict hierarchy rarified through a
complex of cultural traditions and
socio-economic dynamics, values
our professor of labor history over
and above those who actually labor
to keep our lecture hall clean. Within
campus organizations, a culture of
competition for a perceived scarcity
of resources and emphasis on minute difference forecloses the possibility of wider solidarity everywhere:
academic departments fighting over
funding, housemates with “too little
time” to check in with one another,
service and cultural clubs fighting
over a handful of potential participants. These institutions and the cultures they generate must be radically
critiqued, challenged, dismantled,
and replaced with positive, democratic alternatives.
Such a struggle must be launched
strategically and carried out with
courage—the social courage we

shall find by really and fully connecting to one another. And of
course, we need all the courage and
creativity we can find. Entrenched
power and its beneficiaries will not
capitulate unless challenged. Good
intentions and glowing slogans are
never enough. Campaigns must be
initiated on many fronts at once, but
coordinated under the aegis of an
overarching democratization movement at Harvard. To name only a few
discussed in this Manifesto: The Ad
Board must be remade, recourse for
workers suffering from oppressive labor practices and conditions must be
instituted, student government must
be reevaluated and reconstituted,
and neighborhood relations must be
transformed.
Too often the political activities of the
members of the Harvard community
compete with one another. This must
change if we hope to permanently
change this place. We must reimagine what we mean by “political” action, which will entail also a comingto-terms with the interconnectivity
of all progressive action in our community. Debates over labor issues,
race issues, bureaucratic dynamics,
and our pedagogical philosophy are
deeply interlinked. Not all struggles
ought to be collapsed together, but
by actively building campaigns and
coalitions from points of intersection,
we will surely all emerge renewed,
re-energized, and stronger.

Pedagogy
For us, burdened by the rabid nar-

To hope for a better world within
these walls has thus often meant running from what it means to teach us.
In a University where Power is
groomed for its future day-in-thesun, the formulation of a democratic
politics has often been a tale of Harvard’s hidden spaces: to call for an
end to capitalism, one must withstand the stultifying, dogmatic rigidity of our economics curricula; advancing an anti-imperialist agenda
entails ignoring the entreaties of our
most famous, prominent historians.
The task of reclaiming our education and rendering it transformative
rather than conciliatory has always
demanded that we re-open Harvard
itself to contestation—that we reimagine what it, together with this
world, might one day become. As a
place tasked to inflame leaders-inwaiting with a belief in their unflappable importance, the university
has been politicized in a purely instrumental sense. In other words,
“politics” has been located beyond
its gates, destined to be the futures
of the wide-eyed alumni rolling off
the production lines at the Institute

of Politics.
It is this very instrumentality that a
truly revolutionary pedagogy must
renounce. By re-making this place
into a site of contention—by repoliticizing it—we reject the basis
of the excellence it claims. Against
a Harvard committed to tending to
the insecurities of the “best and the
brightest”, we here demand an end
to the ethic of the Expert that suffocates the spirit and the soul of this
school. We refuse to be those adolescents of faith who let urgent hairs fall
over thick, concrete, manufactured
textbooks—we refuse to be reduced
to our problem sets, our midterms,
our papers, our GPA. We refuse to be
shaped into those battalions of earnest soldiers who fight on behalf of
“techniques of management” whose
foundations they have never understood, and thus whose consequences they shall never question.
By emphasizing that all is politics—
that politics suffuses the here and the
now—we seek to make it impossible
for Power to promise itself to those
it deems qualified. In this sense, the
task of democratizing Harvard, then,
is largely the task of ending the domination of “qualification”—of freeing
our pedagogical life of the Veil dividing expert from mass, leader from
led.
And that, thankfully, has implications
not simply for those lorded over by
this institution, but for all who live
and die by the whims of bigwigs everywhere. In place of the corrupt no-

tion that experts must speak for the
uninitiated, that politics means politicking, that “leading lights” should
lead the layman, we call for a new
Harvard, founded in the promise of
collective leadership and truly democratic politics. We imagine a Harvard
that understands the fallacies and
false assumptions of hermetic educations—a Harvard that recognizes
and rejects the inevitable prejudice
of Power when granted to a self-important minority.
Until that day, it should be acknowledged that we never mean to pretend to flee from our privilege into
the waiting arms of the multitude to
whom this world belongs. We do not
imagine that Harvard has left us unscathed for the worse, even as people here have taught and made us
for the better. We mean simply that
the vision of “higher” education we
embrace today demands a decidedly
anti-Harvardian set of commitments
to radical and popular transformation.

Administration
This year, in a show of bureaucratic
demagoguery, Harvard’s powersthat-be have created and selected a
new committee that purports to review the roles of students in college
governance. Yet the Dowling II Committee suffers from the same reformist predilections as the 1981 Dowling
I Committee—Dowling II takes the
creation and fine-tuning of the Undergraduate Council to be its main
focus. Add a few more sub-commit-

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cissism that plagues this place, the
task of finding value in our education without repudiating the democratic foundations of our convictions
has proved taxing. Our classes, our
classmates, our professors, and our
own work are marked through-andthrough by the resolutely hierarchical and inaccessible context of their
formation.

tees, revise the
electoral process,
hold more meetings
between the Undergraduate Council and their
“constituents,” and, miraculously, one washes one’s hands
of the whole bothersome matter of
“student governance.”

While many may appreciate UC party
funds, TV screens in every JCR, and
calendar reform—to call this “student
governance,” to even suggest that
herein exists any semblance of selfgovernance ought to be an affront to
each and every one of us. Governance
at this college, true governance, lies
well out of the hands of students,
staff, workers and even most faculty.
Governance concerns the production of norms and the production of
a certain moral subject who adheres
to those norms. And norms are defined not by general consensus in
the Harvard community, which the
term “community standards,” often
employed by administrative bodies, might imply; rather, norms are
defined by disciplining and punishing those students who fall outside
the “norm.” These norms, though not
decided by us, can still determine
major aspects of collegiate life—
sometimes even life beyond—and in
being measured against them we become the unknowing vessels of their
reproduction.
To glimpse the machinations of governance at work, one need only look
as far as the disciplinary policies of
the Administrative Board. Few of

us realize that the Ad Board, which
has no student representatives and
has as acting members some of the
most powerful administrators in the
college, describes itself as an educational rather than a judicial body.
This allows it to utterly disregard due
process and stifle student rights. The
most severe of punishments dealt
out by the Ad Board short of expulsion is the infamous “requirement to
withdraw”:
[This] Action is taken when a student’s conduct is unacceptable and
the Board has determined that the
student needs to gain perspective
on his or her actions, or to address
and resolve his or her difficulties.
In all cases, the Board requires the
student to leave the Harvard community completely and to hold a
full-time, paid, non-academic job in
a non-family situation, for at least six
consecutive months before petitioning for readmission to the College.
(Administrative Board of Harvard
College, 25)

When one imagines the type of student who might gain the most “perspective” after receiving such a sentence, one begins to understand the
identity of the college’s presumed
moral subject: someone with particular investment in the Harvard
community, who has not worked a
non-academic, full-time job before,
and whose family resources might
have conferred them considerable
advantages should the Board have
not stipulated otherwise. Such is the
sense of entitlement of this imagined

subject—in order for threats to that
entitlement to effectively pressure
the student to comply with “community standards”—that one ironically begins to question whether
this imagined student subject, this
“John Harvard IV,” would indeed gain
perspective or feel any sort of remorse for his “misconduct.” Indeed,
the moralizing tone of the Ad Board
policy explanations evokes memories of a self-contained, all-male, allwhite Harvard. This is not to suggest
that students that fit the description
of John Harvard IV no longer attend.
But by that very same token, one
must recognize that this moral subject has always been imaginary, or at
the very least, produced.
According to the members of Dowling II, the Ad Board, and the Harvard
Corporation, the role of the resident
is not an issue that pertains to “student governance.” But can we expect
otherwise from a committee comprised of administrators, faculty and
a handful of student “representatives”? The creation of new committees, subcommittees, student faculty
bodies—these are the very means
by which the capacity for self-governance is further limited, constrained,
and destroyed.
And the moment we become that
moral subject—”the Harvard man”—
we are lost.
In the interests of free speech, in
our desire to question power relations, property regimes and the very
production of our subjectivity, we

refuse to be highrised, diplomaed,
“ We
licensed, inventoried, registered,

indoctrinated, suburbanized, sermonized,
beaten, telemanipulated, gassed, booked.

must assume—not simply ask for, or
demand—our own self-governance.
We must radically redefine the notion of “the Harvard community” so
that it encompasses everyone who
makes this university possible.

Labor
Mired in the self-important image
of our excellence, we here too rarely
recognize that many among us relate
to this place not as an institution of
learning, but as a Boss. Even while
we students pore over problem sets
and papers, thousands of custodians,
security guards, dining hall workers,
clerical workers work to sustain this
place. And in so doing, they daily
make and re-make this University
that prefers to hide them.



tors, by paying unpalatable wages,
by intimidating employees in order
to silence them, Harvard in its daily
practices consistently negates what
it has the opportunity to embody.
And so, alongside this history of unfulfilled promise lives a history of
uncompromising struggle: workers,
students, and community members
have long rejected a corporate Harvard in favor of one that could be
so much more alive and free. These
histories tell of democratic demands
made against the segregation that
makes inequality and injustice sustainable and possible, by making
workers invisible and disempowered.

Yet the history of labor at Harvard is a
history of unfulfilled promises.

It has been a rebellion against the
disjuncture between hundred-dollar
economics textbooks that profess
the inefficiency of a living wage, and
the world of a single mother working
full time and failing to put food on
her table. It has demanded that this
community realize the bankruptcy of
the philosophy that enables Harvard
students to recommend better skillsets to escape the work that makes
our education possible.

It has always been clear that, by outsourcing work to thrifty subcontrac-

We have rejected, and today continue to reject the galling notion that

As one of the largest employers in
the State, zealously safeguarding a
thirty-five billion dollar endowment,
Harvard has always had every opportunity to remedy the inequalities and
asymmetries that riddle its everyday
life.

the world’s wealthiest university cannot afford to pay its workers a livingwage, or meet the highest standards
of dignity and respect. And for the
last ten years students have been
organizing sit-ins, rallies, and hunger
strikes to lend leverage to the fight
for these rights.
Ultimately, a democratic university
requires the full participation of all
those it affects. And thus, while we
question, dispute, and reject the
labor-related decisions taken by the
administration, we also always believe in something greater. Indeed,

late labor militancy in the service of
Capital, we here demand a radical
restructuring and re-ordering of this
regime.

people of Cambridge, the people of
Allston and Brighton—often unseen
and frequently forgotten, have been
excluded from this vision.

Not only will this new Harvard be
governed differently, but it will also
be lived more completely. After all,
we who are Harvard are not simply
students, professors, and high-ranking administrators, but also janitors,
dining hall staff, security officers, and
clerical workers. The task of fashioning a democratic community demands that we reject a world where
these all-too-shallow distinctions
rule and regulate. In place
of inequalities and hierarchies, we instead imagine
real friendships, cooperation, and solidarity.

Thus, in this university’s educational
mission, a commitment to open dialogue and community involvement
in the decision making process is
attenuated. The university deems
community concerns irrelevant to
the greater goal of education. This
doctrine reveals much about our
education and the principles which
underpin it. The communities Harvard impacts are rendered accessory
objects in the enterprise of university
expansion and development. We are
to believe that the fulfillment of our
educational goals requires certain
resources: the creation of advanced
facilities, the admission of bright and
ambitious students, and a collection
of esteemed scholars and educators.
Those on the periphery of this vision
are ascribed simply instrumental
roles. This structure is not only exclusive, but dehumanizing and repressive to all of us who claim this place
as our own.

petrified
“These
conditions must be forced
to dance by singing to
them their own melody.

it will never be our place as students
to intervene paternalistically in workplace affairs. We believe fully in the
possibilities and potential of workplace democracy.
As it stands, of course, worker opinions are hardly integrated into the
decision-making institutions that
rule over them. The centralization of
Power in these few hermetic offices—
and indeed, in the hands of a few administrators—ignores the narratives,
histories, and demands of those who
often know this university best.
And thus we demand a whole new
paradigm of labor relations at Harvard. In place of the cold calculations
of administrators seeking to regu-



Harvard
has
always
worked only because of
the workers that keep it working.

Communities
This university purports its mission
to be a commitment to education.
How this commitment plays out in
policy regarding workers, students,
and communities, however, reveals
that this noble vision often belies
actions which are undemocratic
and intolerable. Of course, insofar
as financial resources determine the
value of an education, Harvard has
achieved its intended goal. Yet even
our President Drew Faust claims that
“people make a great university.”
And people—the people who pass
through Harvard Yard each day, the

Education is not the information deposited in students at lecture, but a
process of dialogue. Thus, an academic institution is defined as much by its
social spaces as by its classrooms—
by its dining tables, club meetings,
and the interpersonal relationships
of students to other students, to professors, and to workers. A university
expansion must not mean the purchase of more property or the construction of new facilities. If we are to

broaden our education we must extend dialogue to neighboring communities, for those debased by our
exclusive educational structure too
are educators and scholars; they carry narratives and experiences, each
unique and human. An interchange
of ideas—knowledge that encompasses the broadest range of human
experience and understanding—reinvigorates our education and brings
us closer to knowing truth. The dialogical project, extended to others,
brushes against the hermetic atmosphere of academia, and in doing so
bears the promise of transforming
the educational enterprise. The present model must be transcended by
one which recognizes communities
and engages them as equal members.
Today, a veil of benevolence clouds
how we conceive of our relationships
to surrounding communities. Harvard boasts of its current expansion
as a project of community development, priding itself on supposed
benefits doled out to Allston. This
mode of thought often dominates
the relationships of students to communities. We commit ourselves to
servicing communities, and while
service does present the opportunity
for dialogue, it often narrows how we
interact with communities. The goal
has to be to shift the paradigm from
service to solidarity. Despite our selfperception, our current relationship
is determined by existing asymmetries of power. The university exercises such power willingly, at times
mitigated by the supposed benevo-

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h.

lence of our service. In reference to
Harvard’s expansion
into the Allston-Brighton
communities, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, a civic
agency, has stated their intended
goal of giving Harvard the campus
they want, not protecting the community Allston-Brighton residents
cherish.

the minds of future generations of
technocratic managers and intellectualls. At Harvard, the accelerating
transition towards corporatization
has taken place via several processes
including the creation of profit-oriented institutions, the restrictions on
student participation in university
decision-making, the construction of
consent, and the suppression of dissent.

Students must challenge this power
structure and work towards a democratic university. The paternalistic offer of benefits to communities mocks
any sense of justice, and impedes all
possibility of genuine democracy. To
create such a relationship, to build a
democratic university, communities
must be involved in the decisionmaking processes that affect them.
Not through bourgeois committees
which claim representation, but
democratic structures that involve all
members of the surrounding community irrespective of class, gender,
or race and that place power in the
hands of the people.

Amid the rise of neoliberalism, elite
universities have prioritized investment in private firms over investment in the public good, training
students to become the next class
of business-friendly policy makers
and propaganda specialists. With
the dissemination of “market principles” and the transition towards
corporatization, universities have
systematically narrowed the scope of
critical inquiry. Rather than exposing
the doctrinal framework of modern
institutions and challenging the bases of legitimacy on which they rest,
the intellectual community provides
powerful actors with vast ideological
support. To preserve the structure of
power and privilege that characterizes the political economy of neoliberalism, intellectuals have developed
theories and models that advance the
reigning orthodoxy, which regards
the elite as participants and the public as spectators. Through the imposition of effective thought control and
the move towards commodification,
universities select for obedience and
further market-oriented solutions to
today’s crises.

Critically, by redefining the university’s relationship to communities, we
redefine the university.

Institutions
In recent decades, we have seen the
ever-increasing corporatization of
higher education. Elite universities
in the service of Capital have implemented policies that enable them
to perform their function of retaining hegemony through conditioning

At Harvard, students receive a specialized training, in preparation for
entrance into positions of decision
making and authority. Thus, the
pedagogical function of prestigious
universities promotes efficiency over
equity, competition over cooperation, and dependency over development. If the program of corporatization is to be successfully replaced by
a model of popular education, it is
incumbent on students at Harvard to
confront and understand these harsh
realities—both within and beyond
the university—by proposing and realizing a democratic alternative.
The movement for student power at
Harvard is motivated by a desire to
transform the structure of the university into one that promotes free
expression, creative inquiry, critical
thinking, civic engagement, and collective empowerment. We students
understand that popular education
is a precondition for meaningful
participation in democratic decisionmaking. We want a school that encourages individuals to connect their
personal experiences with larger societal problems. We want a university
that is accessible, accountable, affordable, and democratic. We want
an education that allows us to develop our full human potential and that
facilitates our growth into critical,
conscious, and engaged participants
of a democratic society.

Conclusion
Reflect for a moment upon a world,
a Harvard where the answers to the

questions above can be answered by
all positively and joyfully, rather than
with loathing and denial—a Harvard
made differently than the one we
lay claim to today. Our institutions
and social culture would cultivate
radically different values. Institutions
would not only govern us more fairly
and transparently, but we ourselves
would exist day-to-day in a radically
new way. We would eagerly engage
our texts and essays, but we would
also engage more deeply the friends,
acquaintances, and unfamiliar faces
we encounter every day. All emotions
would be felt more fully, all thoughts
conceived more completely, all words
articulated more eloquently, all acts
done more courageously, all fellow
beings loved more magnificently. All
hopes would accelerate us upward
towards still greater hopes.
Such a Harvard is possible. In fact,
such a Harvard might well be at hand.
Harvard has changed immensely
since its founding. It is changing
again. Harvard is a site of struggle,
and many of these struggles have
been victorious. We are heirs to three
centuries of movements for racial,
gender, and class justice at Harvard—most of us owe our presence
to these histories. Radical democracy
animates our hopes and our vision,
as it did for many before us and will
for many after us.
And so, in the words of just one of the
legacies we inherit: Run, comrades,
the old world is behind you!

The Other Harvard Legacy
ehind Harvard University’s
hallowed halls lies a hidden
history of dissent. It’s a history of student movements
that have challenged ivy orthodoxies for the past century and change,
making this a very different place
along the way.
For most of its 370 years, this
place was a bastion of exclusion and
inequality. In many ways, as you will
read about in these pages, it still is.
But if it wasn’t for the students and
others in this community who stood
up for something bigger than themselves, Harvard would still be a place
reserved for those with white skin,
with old money, a Y chromosome, a

B

hetero sexuality, and a faith in Jesus.
It would be a place where everything
from research on the most lethal
weapons to investment in Apartheid
and genocide would have gone unquestioned, and where financial aid
and decent pay would only be meant
for the president and his friends.
This is the intro to Harvard you
won’t get in your first year orientation, your presidential addresses,
your walking tours, or your Crimson
headlines. These are the stories you
won’t hear anywhere else. First, here’s
a sample of that hidden history.
Universities like Harvard have
always compelled some students to
challenge the assumptions of their

society and demand something
more than a higher rung on the social ladder. For instance, Henry David
Thoreau (Class of 1837) and W.E.B.
Dubois (Class of 1890), prophets of
civil disobedience and racial justice
respectively, made their early marks
on this campus.
Campus activists began to organize themselves in earnest in the
1930s, finding their power in the
Harvard Student Union. HSU took on
everything from organizing campus
campaigns for a more open university to putting on “proletarian theater”
to fielding candidates in town elections. Thanks to their efforts, Harvard
was finally forced to start admitting
more African-American, Jewish, and
lower-income students (though
quotas continued into the ’60s), and
teams were forced to reverse a policy
of periodically benching minority

athletes. A band of students even
went to Spain in 1937 to fight the
fascist armies, years before the World
War.
Though Harvard officially succumbed to the “witch hunts” and
political censorship of the ’50s, some
campus journalists didn’t hesitate to
publicly challenge Senator McCarthy
and his House Un-American Activities Committee. Then, the gates were
thrust open. In the Sixties, Harvard
became the center of radical politics
and culture known as the “Kremlin
on the Charles.”
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the young anti-war
movement came to Harvard, and
soon the university had the biggest chapter in the country. SDS
organized an unprecedented drive
to protest Harvard’s complicity in
the Vietnam War, decrying its proxy

down the university for two
months. Their call to arms offers
an illuminating look at the student sentiment of the time:

research for the Pentagon and the
Central Intelligence Agency, university assistance to companies manufacturing weapons that were killing
hundreds of thousands, and the unwelcome presence of the Reserve
Officer Training Corps on campus, as
it trained students to kill even more
Vietnamese people.
The SDS offensive culminated in
1969. That year saw a sit-in at a faculty meeting on the question of ROTC
and, in April, the legendary takeover
of University Hall. When state police, called in by the administration,
staged an early-morning raid on
the building and beat the protesters
bloody, students went on strike by
the thousands and effectively shut

STRIKE FOR THE EIGHT DEMANDS STRIKE BECAUSE YOUR
ROOMMATE WAS CLUBBED
STRIKE TO STOP EXPANSION
STRIKE TO SEIZE CONTROL OF
YOUR LIFE STRIKE TO BECOME
MORE HUMAN STRIKE TO RETURN PAINE HALL SCHOLARSHIPS STRIKE BECAUSE THERE’S
NO POETRY IN YOUR LECTURES
STRIKE BECAUSE CLASSES ARE A
BORE STRIKE FOR POWER STRIKE
TO SMASH THE CORPORATION
STRIKE TO MAKE YOURSELF
FREE STRIKE TO ABOLISH ROTC
STRIKE BECAUSE THEY ARE TRYING TO SQUEEZE THE LIFE OUT
OF YOU STRIKE

Ultimately, the administration
was forced to kick ROTC out,
bring African-American Studies in,
and soon, work to equalize the education of men and women—with
quotas on women at the College
abolished by 1975. These protesters
struck at the very core of old school
Harvard, and its connections to war,
tyranny, racial and gender discrimination. The threat was genuine. The
urgency was real. And the university had no choice but to change its
ways.
Throughout the ’70s and ’80s,
the Old Harvard faced further challenges, many led by the growing
population of students of color. The
university’s hundreds of millions of
dollars invested in apartheid South

Africa fueled a decade-long campaign by the South Africa Solidarity Committee. The Committee demanded that the university divest
from the regime, reaching a head in
1986 with a semester-long shantytown built in the Yard to bring home
the oppression of Black South Africans. Then-president Derek Bok, who
was recently brought back to head
up Harvard, refused all divestment
demands, but the campaign helped
bring national attention to the struggle against apartheid.
With the advent of the 1990s, activism died down some as many students tuned out of politics and tuned
into making lots of money. They
were following Harvard’s example:
Between 1991 and 1999, the university’s endowment tripled to over $15
billion.
But students started wondering
about all the people left out of the
rosy picture: The workers trying to
live on poverty wages while working for the wealthiest university in
the world. The women going to a

school that would allow high rates of
sexual violence, but not a women’s
center. The students of color going
to a school that would tolerate hate
crimes on campus, but no room for
ethnic studies. And last but not least,
all the people around the world impacted by our university’s striking
compliance with the Bush Administration and its wars.
Many students have kept their
mouths shut through all of this. That
silence is a function of what’s known
as the “Harvard bubble,” a function
of our privilege and insulation from
the rest of the world. This is the same
bubble that kept female, Black, Jewish, Latino, Asian, and poor students
out of Harvard for so long. But then
there’s the other Harvard legacy, the
one that you didn’t hear about in
your orientation. Today, that legacy
of dissent is alive and well, and your
class could be a new generation of
activists just waiting to take back the
campus.
Within these pages, you will read
more about the ongoing issues facing
us here at fair Harvard, and the movements that are fearlessly taking them
on. But this Disorientation Guide is
not just made to tell you things you
didn’t know about the school you’re
going to. It’s also about the school
you could be going to. What kind of
school do you want to go to? You
might think that you decided that
already when you chose Harvard, or
Harvard chose you.
But really, it’s something we decide every day.

The Harvard Corporation
ost people are familiar
with Harvard’s reputation as one of the most
prestigious universities
in the world; the college itself trumpets this tag to its incoming firstyears. However, orientation week will
leave first-years woefully uninformed
about the nature of governance and
the process of decision-making at
Harvard. This is no accident. This lack
of information is symptomatic of the
severely antidemocratic environment created by the invisibility and
inaccessibility of those who hold effective authority at the College.
Established in 1650, the main
governing body of the University remains the President and Fellows of
Harvard College, commonly known

M

as the Harvard Corporation (the oldest corporation in the western hemisphere). A self-perpetuating body
made up of seven members, the
Corporation has final say in the decision-making of the administration;
these seven members, exclusively,
delegate authority on behalf of the
University.
The current management style
largely originates from President
Derek Bok’s model of governance,
which replaced the traditional, centralized form of administration with
the modern, decentralized structure.
In response to the growth of student
activism and the rapid expansion of
the University during the 1960s, Bok
entered the following decade and
instituted a corporate style of admin-

istration aimed at
institution that
effectively diffusing
is rooted in the
subsequent
stupublic
good,
dent revolts.1 Under
they then must
Bok’s presidency,
reject the idea
the Corporation has
that our commuvested more power
nity can be manand authority to the
aged from above
president and his ap(as well as the aspointees. While only
sumptions on which
serving as an advisory role
that belief is grounded);
to the president, the Fellows,
we all deserve a say in its
in conjunction with the presifuture because, as students,
dent, wield extensive power and
we play an important role in the
operate on a rigid hierarchy that preUniversity community. In an editocludes any student participation.
rial in the Crimson published in 2000,
There are two major reasons that members of the Progressive Student
Harvard’s incoming first-years should Labor Movement (now the Student
be
up-in-arms
Labor
Action
about this body:
“...first-years should work to- M o v e m e n t )
Inaccessibility:
wrote: “Our libwards abolishing the Corpora- eral education
The Corporation’s
meetings are held tion and having its powers del- is founded on
in secret, and min- egated to faculty, staff, and stu- the principles of
utes are not dis- dents; the opportunity to make open dialogue
closed. Reported the University administration and civic parto meet biweekly,
ticipation, while
more democratic lies before us the authority of
the Corporation
takes pains not to if only we are prepared to dis- the Harvard Cordivulge the loca- cuss the issue and ultimately to poration demtion and time to take decisive action.”
onstrates
the
the student body
contrary.”2 The
(although it is widely accepted that class of 2012 should echo these senthey convene at Loeb House, by Lam- timents as the year commences.
ont Library). Given the Corporation’s
Elitism: Given this extreme exisolation, students can hardly influ- clusivity, it is perhaps unsurprising
ence the content of their discussions that the members of the Harvard
directly, as petitions or demands are Corporation have almost always
only heard at “their secretary’s discre- been wealthy, white, Christian males.
tion.” At many multinational corpora- It was not until 1985 that the body
tions, the board of directors conducts admitted its very first Jewish man.
its business in similar fashion. If first- Three hundred and fifty years of abyears hope to study at an academic solute homogeneity had preceded

his appointment. Four years later,
Judith Richards Hope, a white corporate attorney, became the first
woman appointed to the Board of
Overseers.3 And it was not until the
twenty-first century that the first person of color became a fellow. While
superficial measures have been taken to respond to criticisms of obvious racism and sexism, the historical
record reflects the perverse philosophy that underpins the Corporation.
First-years should vociferously contest the belief that the University, with enormously
diverse concerns and
constituents, can
be administered
by a nearly homogenous
group
with
particularly
elite interests.
The premise
upon which
the Corporation was founded is no longer
acceptable today
(nor was it ever);

indeed, it was with the same claim
to “expertise” that European monarchs and aristocrats erected vast
empires by exploiting indigenous
peoples and natural resources in
the Americas, Africa, and Asia—their
imperial ambitions often praised by
prominent intellectuals of the time.
Out of a need to overcome the racist, patriarchal, and elitist structure
of the Harvard Corporation, incoming first-years should work towards
abolishing the Corporation and having its powers delegated
to faculty, staff, and
students; the opportunity to make the
University administration more
democratic lies
before us if
only we are
prepared to
discuss the
issue and ultimately to
take decisive
action.

n 1997, the big men on campus were raking in millions of
dollars. But over a thousand
people who worked on campus were living in poverty, struggling to subsist on $7 or 8 an hour after Harvard had cut their wages and
“outsourced” their jobs.
That year, a group of students
decided to do something about it.
The Progressive Student Labor
Movement (PSLM) launched a campaign to bring a “living wage” to Harvard - $10 an hour in 1999 as declared
by the City of Cambridge.
PSLM held over a dozen big com-

I

SLAM

munity protests, won the support
of hundreds of faculty and alumni,
staged a “teach-in” for prefrosh in the
admissions office, and even chartered
an airplane to fly over commencement pulling a living wage banner.
When the administration and the
Harvard Corporation still wouldn’t
budge, and worse, outsourced even
more workers from above to below
the living wage, PSLM knew it was
time to up the ante. In April 2001,
fifty students staged a sit-in in Mass.
Hall in protest of Harvard’s poverty
wages and the administration’s intransigence. Daily pickets, rallies, and
a “tent city” in the Yard attracted up
to 2000 people and the attention of
national media. After three weeks,
students finally left Mass. Hall with
an agreement from the university to
create an independent committee
to investigate labor practices, put a
moratorium on outsourcing of jobs,
and renegotiate a better contract
with campus unions.
Over the next year, janitors and
dining hall workers would see their
wages rise to a level above what was
then the Cambridge living wage. But
to this day, the university still refuses
to implement a lasting living wage
standard.
Student Labor Action Movement
Over the next few years, students
would graduate, awareness of work-

ers’ rights would fade, and activists
would turn their attention to other
concerns after September 11th. But
injustice would not go away so easily. Workers kept up the fight for their
rights, but they were losing ground.
As soon as students had their backs
turned, Harvard busted the union
of security guards, outsourced more
jobs, and in spite of record revenue,
laid off hundreds of workers from
2003-4.
It was up to a new generation of
Harvard students to revive the movement for justice.
Enter Student Labor Action
Movement (SLAM) in the fall of 2005.
The janitors’ contract with Harvard
was expiring, and the university was
ready to take a hard line to try to
keep the janitors where they were:
with hourly wages still $7 below the
“state self-sufficiency standard,” poor
health and vacation benefits, and
few full-time jobs. What’s more, Harvard’s security guards, who had seen
their union crushed, were struggling
to organize a new one.
Hundreds of students joined
SLAM in stepping up to support the
janitors. SLAM held speakouts and
community lunches with the janitors, a “Workers’ Week” to educate
the student body, a “trick or treat”
visit with the children of janitors to
President Summers’ house, and
the two biggest protests seen in
years, with students and janitors blocking traffic on Mass.
Avenue in front of the Harvard
Club of Boston.
In November, janitors
won a $5 raise over the next

six years, along with enforcement of
the “parity” standard, better overtime
pay, and increased sick time, disability, and vacation benefits.
In February 2006, SLAM launched
the “Right to Organize” campaign,
meant to defend the human rights of
workers to form unions and freely associate with each other.
The campaign calls on Harvard
to institute a campus labor code of
conduct, to implement “card-check
neutrality” as a democratic process
to allow workers to organize without
fear, and to cut contracts with companies in flagrant violation of these
rights. Companies like AlliedBarton
Security, which has harassed and retaliated against Harvard guards for
trying to organize, and Coca-Cola,
which has been found responsible
for the murders of union activists in
Colombia.
In the fall of 2006, SLAM actively
campaigned in favor of card check
by running a student card check
drive, seeking to raise awareness about card check by
replicating it on our
campus. Hundreds
of
students
signed

cards in support of the officers’ call
for a fair unionization process.
In October, the Stand for Security Coalition was formed, including
SLAM, the Black Men’s Forum, the
College Democrats, and more than
twenty other student groups. This
coalition organized over a hundred
officers, students and community
members to rally for card check, and
march through Harvard Yard. Soon after, AlliedBarton signed a card check
agreement with SEIU 615, cementing
the union for security officers.
Although guards were unionized, they still lacked their first contract. Negotiations were rocky all
through March and on April 4th, officers, students, other Harvard workers and community members braved
freezing rain and snow to show their
commitment to justice. The march
was on the same day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed while
supporting a sanitation workers’
strike. King correctly recognized that there could be
no racial justice without
labor justice, and vice
versa, because black
people are largely
working people.
Nowhere is that
more ap-

parent than in the security workforce
across the country, which is largely
black. That the last non-union and
the lowest-paid workforce on this
campus is made up largely of blacks
and/or immigrants of color was not
lost on us on that day.
With the negotiation process
stalled, SLAM realized that more pressure had to be placed on Harvard to
guarantee a fair contract before the
end of the academic year. On April
26, 2007, seventy-five students participated in a one-day fast in support
of Harvard security officers. Over the
next week, students planned and
participated in a series of escalating
fasts. This culminated on May 4th,
when eleven student began an indefinite hunger strike, which eventually
lasted nine days. Each day, hundreds
of students, workers, and community members rallied in Harvard Yard,
once even shutting down the Holyoke Center. Nightly vigils were held
on the steps of Memorial Church led
by allies from the faith community.
The hunger strike garnered international media attention and sparked
the crisis that reinvigorated the negotiation process.
On June 6th, security guards
agreed to a contract that would provide them with a thirty percent pay
increase, improved benefits, and
a fair grievance process. Another
success for students and labor
united!
SLAM continues to meet regularly and is actively engaged in
support labor rights at Harvard
and beyond.

Harvard
Background: Many of the authors in this booklet and myself
co-founded the Harvard AntiWar Coalition (HAWC—irony
deliberate) in September 2007.
HAWC is dedicated to building
consciousness on campus about
the current US-led occupations
in Afghanistan and Iraq through
a range of activities, including:
The Harvard-Cambridge Weekly
Peace Walk in the Yard, several
street theater actions including
anti-torture issues, a “Billionaires
for Bush” themed protest, distributing flyers on the human and financial cost of the wars, sponsoring anti-war films and speakers,
working with fellow Boston antiwar groups. A group of campus
anti-war activists, mostly HAWC
folks, had an on-record conversations (excerpts printed by the
Crimson) reflecting on the war,
our activism, and communities a
few days before our major event
this year—a rally in the Yard commemorating the 5th Anniversary
of the invasion of Iraq. We encourage you to get involved next
year, join our list (harvardawc@
lists.riseup.net) and check out
more media on our actions on
cambridgecommon.com.

Today at 2:30, members of the Harvard Anti-War Coalition (HAWC) will
gather in front of the Science Center,
along with over a dozen other campus groups, to protest the Iraq War
on its fifth anniversary. The Crimson
sat down with HAWC’s co-founders
and the president of the Harvard
Democrats to discuss the state of
protest and politics at Harvard.
The Harvard Crimson: What was your
political ideology five years ago at
the brink of the U.S. invasion of Iraq?
Kyle A. Krahel ’08: I was conservative.
The war was one of the biggest things
that made me move towards the left.
It is something that is very much tied
to my identity. It has had an extraordinary, direct influence on me.
Jarret A. Zafran ’09, president of the
Harvard Democrats: I was not even
that politically active or conscious
about this five years ago. I would
probably say I was a supporter of the
war. I can’t pinpoint where I changed
my mind.
Paul G. Nauert ’09: I can directly trace
my political trajectory from this
event, from the run-up to the war to
the war actually happening.
THC: What has been the trend of antiwar sentiment on campus?
Zafran: The campus has been solidly

& War
against war. At least 75 percent of
the campus opposed this war at least
since 2005. After the 2004 elections,
people were forced into different
camps.
THC: Would you characterize Harvard
students as politically apathetic?
Nauert: I feel that many people at
Harvard are engaged in some form
of social action or political action...
very broadly and diversely construed, whether it’s Phillips Brook
House, House government, the UC,
Dems, or whatever the case may be.
What I think I have been surprised
at is that with some very, very major
exceptions—like the Stand for Security Campaign, the May Day rallies
for immigration my freshman year—
groups fail to connect on broadly
shared interests and form lasting, coalitional outlooks.
Zafran: Typical Harvard students support a lot of what the activist students on campus are pushing for, but
yet always wonder if it’s worth it to
invest their time. A lot of Harvard students say, “Yeah, I’m opposed to the
war but does the fact that I’m coming out on a rainy Wednesday to support a peace walk matter at all?” In
some ways, Harvard students are too
mature for their own good. Perhaps
students have lost a bit of the idealism that has characterized previous

generations and is what college students of the ’60s and ’70s have criticized our generation for. It’s not that
we don’t care—I don’t think I would
characterize it as apathy. It’s just a
more pragmatic—and perhaps some
people would say more cynical—
outlook on how you achieve that.
THC: So you feel that Harvard students are politically conscious but
don’t feel compelling personal stakes
to engage in political activism on
campus?
Adaner Usmani ’08: Politics is something that takes place at Harvard.
It’s the idea of politicizing Harvard.
People aren’t willing to acknowledge
that Harvard is a site of contention,
that Harvard itself is a site of politics. It’s about fostering a different
type of ethic in Harvard students. It’s
about not enabling them to say that
“this is a place where I’ll come and be
educated and be trained and then I’ll
go and do political stuff.” No. It’s this
place that you’re at now—this is a
political place.
THC: How do you compel students to
feel a personal stake for the issues for
which you advocate?
Alyssa M. Aguilera ’09: We are trying to
show that it isn’t just an issue limited
to political activists or peace activists

getting involved. This affects all sorts
of facets of our lives.
Usmani: One of the other tactics
HAWC discussed at the beginning of
the year was what we saw as a failure of anti-war activism in past years.
It didn’t seem like we were doing a
good job of bringing the war home
and making it pertinent to Harvard
students’ realities. So what we decided to do this year was investigate Harvard’s own investments in relation to
the war and push a divestment campaign of some sort. We found significant investments in the war that the
Harvard Corporation has. For various
reasons, partly for personal reasons,
we haven’t been able to energize
that campaign as much.
THC: What are some of the parallels
between anti-war protests against
the Vietnam War and the Iraq War on
campus?
Krahel: This University will try and
squelch dissent. As somebody who
was involved in the hunger strike,
I know. They tried to kick us out of
Harvard for doing the hunger strike.
When it comes down to it, the administration and faculty in those
times [during the Vietnam War] were
vehemently opposed, and explicitly
so, to anti-war activism. This created
an opposition. On a lot of campuses,
police, things like that were brought
in. This was one of them. And they
beat students. Students that were
otherwise depoliticized saw that.
That exploded campuses across the
nation, including ours. Students saw
the forces of the status quo holding

us down and keeping us quiet.
THC: Why was Harvard, as Krahel
characterized it, so ready to “squelch
dissent”?
Krahel: We were going to cost them
money.
Aguilera: When it comes down to it, in
order for Harvard to act, they need to
have an incentive. During the hunger
strike, during the Living Wage campaign [aimed at increasing wages for
Harvard employees about a decade
ago], during the divestment campaign, their reputation was at stake.
As activists, that’s where we try to hit
them. That’s why we’re in the middle
of the quad, we’re sending press releases out to everyone, drawing attention to Harvard. Personally, I want
to rid where I live of militarism and
of war profiteering. I don’t want my
school to have those sorts of ties.
That’s why we’re acting at Harvard.
The rally is not an attack on the Harvard administration. That doesn’t
make much sense tactically.
THC: What role do you believe Harvard should play in anti-war protests?
Aguilera: Nobody thinks that the
Harvard administration is going to
end the war. It has to be a collective
source of action all across the nation,
a huge mobilization of students, raising our voices, coming together, and
doing something on a broader scale.
In the past, Harvard has really been
a hotbed of activism. Harvard does
have this name and the media does

latch on to that. So if we’re going to
stir stuff up, this is where we have a
lot of leverage. If 500 Harvard kids
get arrested for protesting the war,
that will be on the national news, the
world media. Nobody is trying to get
arrested though.
THC: How do elements of restraint,
specifically in the strategy of silence
in the weekly peace walk through
the Yard, reflect HAWC’s aims?
Aguilera: It’s a vigil, it’s silent. In terms
of our strategy, we ask ourselves: Is
this a tactic we believe in? Is this too
non-confrontational for something
like the war, which is so inherently
confrontational? Should we be responding to war by walking, literally silenced? [This is] something we
grappled with as anti-war activists.
Usmani: In years past, the peace walk
was viewed as a group of older Cambridge residents foreign to our campus and to our student body walking
around in Harvard Yard. The intentions of them are exactly what we’ve
been talking about: politicizing campus. This is why the peace walks are in
the middle of the Yard, at the middle
of day, and the middle of week. The
intention is to bring politics to what
is normally viewed as an apolitical
space at an apolitical time—at a time
of learning and not of politics.
THC: What is the underlying goal
behind HAWC’s strategy of creative
street theatre?
Nauert: You see the random kid in
your section. You make that eye con-

tact. We were wearing black hoods,
specifically an action to draw attention to the torture and human rights
abuses of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. You can see through the
material, you can see your friends,
peers, but they don’t really see you.
You’re put in a position where they’re
responding to you precisely as the
extracted essence of activism at the
moment.
THC: What have been some of your
most meaningful experiences as anti-war activists?
Nauert: The moments where we
made eye contact, whether it’s from
behind the hood, or when actually
holding a sign, and that person actually responds to you, recognizes you
as a human being. Those moments
give me an immense sense of hope.
We strive to show the interconnectivity of politics. It’s not just that we
want to transform Harvard. We hope
that human beings are being transformed. One of the most important
lessons I’ve learned is to focus on the
kid who comes every week and to
find hope in that. It gives me a lot of
hope, not just for ending the war, but
for democracy and world justice.

from The Harvard Crimson
“Crimson Sits Down with Harvard Anti-War
Coalition”
Published On 3/19/2008
by BITA M. ASSAD

You, my comrade, you whom I was
unaware of amid the tumult, you
who are throttled, afraid, suffocated — come, talk to us.

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