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

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