The Occupy Wall Street movement has camps in many American cities. And a large number of the protesters appear to be young, college-age folks. So it should not be a big surprise to read that students at the prestigious Harvard University have also gotten involved in these protests.
However, "Occupy Harvard" was late to the OWS party. As Manhattan's Zuccotti Park was filling up in mid-September, tents only started springing up in the historic Harvard Yard on November 9th. Oddly enough, this was the same day that Occupy Berkeley set up camp across the country.
While Occupy Berkeley has been the site where thousands of students have gathered, at times clashing violently with police, Occupy Harvard remains a small and rather exclusive club. At the moment, fewer than two dozen tents are pitched on the lawn in the middle of the famed campus, and they are protected by 24-hr a day security and gates that prevent non-Harvard types from invading.
The students living in the mini-tent city on Harvard Yard are not pleased about their protected state.
On Monday, November 21st, Occupy Harvard released a statement about the lockdown;
OVER 100 HARVARD FACULTY VOICE SUPPORT FOR OCCUPY HARVARD; YARD LOCKDOWN WIDELY CONDEMNED
Cambridge, MA — When Occupy Harvard set up camp on 9 November in Harvard Yard, University officials responded by placing the campus on “indefinite” lockdown, allowing entrance only to those with Harvard IDs. Students, faculty, and staff have joined together in condemning the lockdown, some voicing their opposition through open letters to University President Drew Faust. Additionally, more than 100 faculty have signed an online petition in support of Occupy Harvard.
Reading the Harvard Magazine story online, one can't help but point out the irony of students "occupying" Harvard Yard in their brand new Coleman tents, surrounded by metal gates and camping out under the watchful eye of campus security. (I must admit that the scene in the photo below had me flashing back to a summer night in the suburbs of Chicago when a few young friends spent most of the night in a tent pitched in the back yard - with dad keeping a watchful eye on the young adventurers.)
Additionally, as you scroll down the online story about this fight of the alleged 99%, railing against the unfair advantages given to the 1%... HarvardMagazine.com's web pages are riddled with pop-up ads trying to sell some pretty high dollar Harvard trinkets. For example, these fine looking, commemorative etched glasses, perfect for sipping a single-malt scotch while monitoring the LIBOR. (They can be yours for a donation of $100.00.)
Exactly WHAT are the students protesting? According to Harvard Magazine:
While other Occupy protests, including one in downtown Boston, are clamoring against the general excesses of Wall Street, Harvard’s protesters are primarily concerned with the roles the University and some of its alumni have played in recent financial crises.
“Many Harvard [graduates] were working in all the banks that were making the bad loans and ended up needing to get bailed out,” said third-year Divinity School student Jeff Bridges. “We’re here asking the administration to take that seriously.”
The administration does appear to have taken this protest seriously.
Harvard is providing round-the-clock security for the encampment. And you could make the argument that the school's plan is working. To date, there have been no reports of rape, robbery, or unsanitary conditions at Occupy Harvard.
Perhaps the reason the university is paying attention is because the administration understands that the small group of students camping in the Yard are a valuable commodity, if not today, certainly in the future. After all, Harvard alumni have been quite generous to their alma mater. Based on recent reports, the Harvard Endowment is valued at $32 billion dollars, making it the richest college endowment in the country. The school may just believe that they are protecting the protesting students and their endowment at the same time.
(Of course we realize that the size of Harvard's endowment does have something to do with how its investments are managed. But, getting to $32 billion requires substantial seed money.)