Today, one of my House tutors held his office hours not from behind his desk, but from behind the information table at Occupy Harvard. You know what I have to say to that?
The Yard’s tent city has become the subject of such hot debate over the last few weeks, but for all the wrong reasons. I’ve heard a lot of students complain about the “inconvenience” of having to show their IDs to get into the Yard, or of having to choose an open gate because their regular route of travel has been cut off. It seems that students have pushed more of their energies into finding alternate walking routes through the Yard than into thinking about why Occupy Harvard has been constructed in the first place.
Every day in class, we as students are encouraged to ask questions, challenge conventions, and think of ways in which we can change our world. This is exactly what Occupy Harvard has aimed to do; yet, it has been received by the Harvard community in an embarrassing and rather sad manner. The Occupy movement is worldwide and has opened countless opportunities for debates, panels, speakers, and education. This is a prime opportunity to discuss the situation at hand, no matter which side of the issues you’re on.
Instead, the student body has polarized between two extremes, to the point where it seems like if you’re not with Occupy Harvard, you’re expected to hate it. I’m not shocked that this movement has made its way to Harvard, but I’m pretty surprised by how it’s been dealt with by the administration.
Faced with a tent city and a sterling reputation to uphold, Harvard locked down the Yard and then sent out an email to all students describing why it all simply had to be that way. In a place where we should be encouraged to challenge and question what’s put in front of us, I think it’s pretty embarrassing that the administration would rather put a lid on the whole issue. I won’t pretend to have all of the answers to the current Occupy Harvard situation, but here’s my short list of what I think the movement could and should have led to:
- Discussion between administrators and protesters about the issues at hand.
- Invitations to outspoken economists, politicians, Occupy leaders etc. to visit campus and lecture on their views.
- Panels of prominent speakers on BOTH sides of the issues to engage students in debate about what has become a global movement.
- Collaboration between undergraduate departments (perhaps Economics and Government?) to encourage student-run debates.
Some of these things are starting to happen. Tomorrow (12/7), Science Center D will host the Occupy Harvard Teach-In, a series of 30-minute lectures from 3:30-7:30 p.m. on all things Occupy. Other small (and rather poorly publicized) Occupy events have also taken place within the last few weeks. This is a great place to start, and I think we can do even more. As students, we should be asking questions of what we see in the Yard, rather than blindly writing it off because it has caused a minor inconvenience. As a community of curious and intellectual individuals, it’s our responsibility to step it up and challenge, question, discuss, and really think about what we’re seeing in the Yard right now.