Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Students Rally Against Cuts

Students and Staff Rally For Budget Say
Published On Wednesday, May 20, 2009 3:14 AM

Over 150 students, workers and staff attended a rally outside of University Hall yesterday afternoon to support an effort aiming at greater transparency and inclusion in the University’s budgeting system.

The event, entitled “We Are Harvard,” came just over a week after the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest school, enumerated $77 million in cuts to cope with the current financial downturn, affecting everything from athletic teams to breakfast offerings in the Houses and drawing a round of student and staff concerns.

The organizers of yesterday’s protest had planned for it to coincide with the monthly meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences that was slated to end at 5:15 p.m., but the meeting unexpectedly ended minutes before a critical mass of students had arrived. Many faculty members exited before students and staff were able to encircle the building in protest.

But by 5:15 p.m., a crowd that consisted mostly of students chanted slogans like “Hey hey, ho ho; Where did all the money go?” and held signs as they walked around University Hall. Very few workers were in attendance as many of them were unable to leave work in time for the event, according to representatives from the Student Labor Action Movement.

The rally was slated to focus on inclusion and transparency in the budget-trimming process, but some of the student and worker speeches seemed to drift off message—a number of them demanding that Harvard save jobs.

But a speech by Eva Z. Lam ’10, the president of the Harvard Democrats, refocused the group’s attention on the stated goal.

“We have the entire community here,” she said. “I’m not here to work against [Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences] Michael Smith. We can’t work with them unless they allow us to.”

“The students want to have input,” she said.

Adams House Committee Co-Chair Amol K. Jain ’10 said that Harvard students are often told they are the best and brightest. “If that’s true,” he said, “[Administrators] should really be asking us, including us.”

Judith H. Kidd, associate dean of Harvard College, said after the event that “anytime the students feel strongly enough about standing up and chanting, it gets the administration’s attention.”

“I think this was good,” she added.

Institute of Politics president Mary K. B. Cox ’10 said that even though many faculty members left the meeting early, the rally seemed to go “without a hitch.” She added that she suspected that only the event organizers noticed that the meeting had adjourned ahead of schedule.

Earlier yesterday afternoon at 3:30 p.m., event organizers handed out a sheet of paper containing information about the “We Are Harvard” rally to faculty members as they entered University Hall. Members of the Student Labor Action Movement also separately distributed folders with information.

In a separate event at 4:00 p.m., a group of Harvard workers convened around the John Harvard statue with members of SLAM and gave speeches in support of worker jobs.

Johnny F. Bowman ’11, a member of SLAM, told the workers present to “please keep the fight up, keep the hope up.” Bowman said that SLAM argues for a “collective sacrifice.” “We feel Harvard has a responsibility to its lowest paid workers,” he said.

Lam, an organizer of the “We Are Harvard” event, told workers, “We’re here for you. We’re not here just here for hot breakfast.”

Bedardo Sola, a staffer who was laid off and then rehired by Harvard subcontractor ABM OneSource, spoke to the crowd in Spanish. Daniel Brasil Becker, a representative for the Service Employees International Union Local 1615, interpreted Sola’s remarks.

“For Harvard we are numbers,” Sola said. “Numbers they write in with pencil—and erase as well.”

Harvard University Police Department officers stood at each entry to University Hall during both of yesterday’s rallies.

Organizers were instructed not to obstruct the entrances and the protest remained peaceful throughout the day.

—Staff writer Eric P. Newcomer can be reached at

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Law School Announces Layoffs

Law School Will Cut Staff To Trim Budget
Acting Dean says layoffs are inevitable due to drop in endowment payout
Published On Tuesday, May 05, 2009 11:43 PM

Harvard Law School will lay off staff members in response to budgetary constraints imposed by University administrators, acting Dean Howell E. Jackson said Monday.

The likely layoffs come amidst continued estimates of a 30 percent decline in endowment value by year’s end and a corresponding reduction in the endowment payout—a major source of funding for the University’s different schools that accounts for 40 percent of the Law School’s annual revenue.

A recent University request for a 10 percent reduction in the Law School budget has made staff layoffs inevitable as the school works to maintain its commitments to financial aid and its educational priorities, Jackson said in an interview with The Crimson Monday.

“These are material changes that will affect our budgets in future years,” Jackson said. “We will need to reduce our staff levels in order to live within our new means.”

But at this stage, the magnitude of future layoffs remains unclear, and will depend on the participation rate that the school sees in an early retirement incentive program for staff that will conclude next week, according to Marie H. Bowen, an assistant dean and chief human resources officer at the Law School.

To supplement the results of the early retirement program and diminish the need for layoffs, the Law School will try to keep currently unfilled staff positions empty in order to trim operating expenses, Jackson said.

But how effective this hiring “chill” will be at closing the gap in the school’s budget remains to be seen.

“If we can use the chilled positions that would obviously be easier, but my expectation will be that we will have some layoffs in [the upcoming fiscal year],” he said.

Jackson emphasized Monday that any decision to lay off workers would be carefully weighed “to make sure it’s the right choice.”

But according to labor activist and first-year law student Marissa A. Vahlsing, the school has already initiated de facto staff cuts, asking subcontractors to cut their expenses, which has resulted in job losses and the summer closure of a cafe in the basement of Harkness Commons, the Law School student center.

Student labor activists present at a brief private meeting with Jackson last week said that the acting Dean was unaware of the impending cafe closure and criticized the lack of transparency in the decision making process regarding layoffs.

Student activists have recently disputed the notion that the University’s core mission revolves around its educational mission—a central argument behind the administration’s justification for staff layoffs.

Laura M. Binger, a third year law student who said Jackson made that claim during the recent meeting with labor activists, expressed her concern over what she views as a distortion of Harvard’s mission.

Recent weeks have seen a proliferation of labor protests at the College over staff layoffs, but student activists at the Law School expressed concern over their peers’ apparent lack of engagement with the issue, which they say poses a potential hurdle to mounting layoff protests similar to those at the College.

—Staff writer Elias J. Groll can be reached at