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Life in Harvard Yard has progressed greatly since the “Occupy Harvard” fiasco “came to an inglorious end,” as Professor Jacobson put it in his post commenting on Free Harvard‘s hilarious video of “Occupy Harvard” being blown away and carted off by Harvard workers as junk.

A little over a year ago, the portion of Harvard Yard directly in front of the John Harvard statue featured a motley collection of plastic-covered structures. I am pleased to be able to report that a much classier structure now dominates the Yard.

Yesterday, in the aftermath of a major snowstorm, some enterprising students erected a fort constructed entirely of snow and vast numbers of empty beer bottles.  And unlike “Occupy Harvard,” which despite its name was often left unoccupied (see the 2011 posts on this blog), these students actually manned the fort!

You be the judge of whether the replacement of the “Occupy Harvard” structures with a beer-bottle fort is an improvement.

Here is a blown-up portion of a photo posted on this blog on December 18, 2011 (full photo here), showing the “Occupy Harvard” encampment in front of the John Harvard statue (looking east to the statue):









As always, for a full-screen version, just click on the photo.

Here is roughly the same view yesterday, of the front of the beer-bottle fort which now dominates the Yard in front of the statue:









And just to add a bit of color and context, here are a few other photos of the fort, and of the students working on it, taken from various points around the compass.  They did a better job, and seemed to be having a lot more fun on the project, than the “Occupy Harvard” students ever did!







































Update (Feb. 13):  Many thanks to super-blogger John Sexton for covering Harvard’s new beer-bottle snow fort, in a post on in which he makes this apt comparison:

There won’t be any signs touting anarchy, praising communism or offering dire warnings about the dangers of Monsanto. No marches full of rich hipsters chanting slogans against the rich. No tedious general assemblies. No leaders of the “leaderless movement” camped out in a warm building nearby. No public urination or dumping of human waste. No scuffles with police. No fist fights, no stabbings and no camp security warning people not to involve police. No sexual assaults. Women need not build a separate beer-bottle-safety-fort nearby. And I suspect no one involved will be using spare bottles to make Molotov cocktails. In short, no Occupy.

Last night I learned that Harvard’s “space occupants” — as I call the members of “Occupy Harvard” who have populated “Occuberg” on and off since November 9 — took down their tents yesterday, a day before their self-imposed deadline.  They did it without advance notice of the time, in the wee morning hours when there were few if any non-occupants there to watch. To see what’s left of the site I stopped by this morning and took these photos of a suddenly barren landscape and, not unusual for “Occupy Harvard,” an info desk left vacant (click for full-screen detail):




























Call me obsessive, but in addition to these photos taken from the west, east, southwest, and south, respectively, I snapped more photos of the former encampment from the north, northwest, west, and southeast (unfortunately the Hood blimp was unavailable for an aerial shot). I noticed that the vacant site left the security guards with plenty of time to chat (see here and here).  Yet even with the tents gone and the site left vacant, each of the gates to Harvard Yard remained barred to those lacking Harvard i.d.s, as you can see from these photos of the north gate, south gate, east gate, and west gate (inside and outside).

Shortly after taking down the tents, on the website the space occupants — I guess that should be “former space occupants” — launched the latest salvo in their messaging war: a three-minute YouTube video expressing their feelings about some “naughty boys” at Harvard, which you can view here. I prefer more adult language, so using the sentiment behind the video I’ll term them “Harvard’s Most Hated.”

They are: Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield, hated as a bigot and homophobe; Harvard history professor Niall Ferguson, also hated as a bigot, and a “slanted” cross-dressing economist, to boot; Harvard professor and former president, and former U.S. Treasury Secretary, Lawrence Summers, hated because some of his executive decisions yielded poor results, and because he used his financial background and connections to earn money; and the senior Fellow of the Harvard Corporation, and former U.S. Treasury Secretary, Robert E. Rubin, hated for the same reasons.

At 0:38 of the video, “Occupy Harvard” unveils its gifts to Harvard’s Most Hated for this holiday season:  “Lumps of Coals for Naughty Boys!”  Apparently there are no “naughty girls” at Harvard, not even Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust, the person ultimately responsible for closing Harvard Yard during the occupation and thus depriving the space occupants of the reinforcements from outside Harvard they would have needed to sustain it.

Remarkably, even though “Occupy Harvard” prides itself on making decisions by consensus, in public, through regular “General Assembly” meetings, there was never any vote on whether any of these four individuals should be singled out and denounced by “Occupy Harvard” — the video simply appeared on the “Occupy Harvard” website without even a prior mention of the idea at any “General Assembly” meeting.

Although I wasn’t there yesterday morning and thus can’t personally vouch for the report, a source of mine reports that after the tents were all down, as the sun was coming up, one of the space occupants read some brief remarks off the back of an envelope. Later they were written up as a handout available at the info desk, which I’ve obtained. I haven’t yet seen it posted on the website (they haven’t even posted the pivotal resolution passed at the December 12 “General Assembly” meeting, though I’ve posted it, here), so I’ve taken the liberty of posting the text of the speech below.

The handout doesn’t list a title for the speech. Given that the members of the movement called their encampment “Occuburg,” it seems appropriate to call it “The Occuburg Address.” I give it high marks — solemn, dignified, concise; just right for this historic occassion.

Some of my commentators have suggested that the “Occupy” movement, at least in terms of its governance, is just a retread of previous failed consensus-obsessed “horizontal democracy” movements such as the Green Party and the Libertarian Party. I’m pleased to see that, with this speech marking the end of “Occupy Harvard 1.0,” the (former) space occupants have finally come up with something original.

(Note: I’ve added some hyperlinks to the text to provide some context for those who haven’t been reading this blog and Also, I’ve changed around some archaic and sometimes confusing punctuation, but otherwise the text is as given to me by my source.)

–“Major Tom”

“The Occuburg Address”

Four score minus forty days ago our SEIU sponsors brought forth in this Harvard Yard, a tent city, conceived in consensus, and dedicated to the proposition that all janitors are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great messaging war testing whether that city, or any city so conceived, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a geodesic dome, as a final resting place for the dreams of labor activists who slept here so that that city might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow — this dome. The space occupants, women and men, who occupied here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the non-occupying, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who slept here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from this honored dome we take increased devotion to that cause for which the space occupants gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these occupants shall not have occupied in vain — and that this city, under Bok, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of consensus, by consensus, for consensus, shall not perish from the earth.

As noted at the bottom of my previous post, some discrepancies emerged this morning between the account on the “Occupy Harvard” twitter feed of how the encampment’s doing (20-25 people there) and the account in today’s Boston Globe (a handful of people rotating shifts).

Well, this is an empirical matter which — unlike most matters disputed at Harvard — can be tested. So I set out this afternoon, a little after two, for another survey of “Occuburg,” as some of the occupiers reportedly are calling their tent city.

It turns out that the camp has again been left vacant in the afternoon, the fifth time I’ve found it vacant in a little over a dozen visits (in addition to November 12, November 18, November 19, and December 7).  When the camp is staffed by only one person, that person always sits at the info desk (e.g., on November 14, here) — and today’s Boston Globe article notes the movement’s commitment to at least “keep an information tent continually staffed” while “the network of students and employees comprising the movement float in and out around classes, work, and exams.”  Well, here’s a closeup photo of the info desk, inside the info tent, when I visited this afternoon:

There are three chairs, two of them empty and one occupied by a sign — no space occupants!  Lest you think someone was visible elsewhere in the camp who I’ve cropped out in this photo, here’s the entire photo, which also illustrates the considerable number of people who walked through Harvard Yard this afternoon and saw an “Occupy” site left unoccupied (here 5 people are walking by the info desk, and two others are visible on the far right) — as always, click or download for a full-screen photo:








For those who’ve enjoyed my previous photos and statistics, the official score on people who were present exhibiting serious interest in the site this afternoon (setting aside the casual pedestrians) was:  4 photographers, 1 cop, 0 occupants.

As before, I count myself as the first photographer.  Here’s the second photographer, snapping a photo of her friends at the Johnston gate using historic “Occuburg” as a backdrop (the sole Harvard University Police Department officer I encountered was sitting in the car to the right, and seemed to mostly be monitoring the gate; there were no brown-uniformed Securitas guards onsite this time, perhaps because there were no space occupants onsite):












Here’s the third photographer, also taking a photo of a friend in front of “Occuburg”:












And here’s the fourth photographer, in this shot taken from the west (he’s in black, just to the left of the dome):







Okay, maybe I cheated on that a bit — the photographer was taking a picture of the John Harvard statue (I didn’t actually see him photographing the camp):












So as not to let my remaining photos go to waste, for anyone who wants a sense of how much foot traffic there was in and out of Harvard Yard while “Occuburg” was vacant, and of the security presence at each of the four gates, just click on these photos:

Widener (south) gate:  here.

Johnston (west) gate:  here.

Thayer (north) gate:  here, here, here, and here.

Lamont (east) gate:  here and here.

–“Major Tom”




In an exclusive published here on December 14, I reported that at their December 12 “General Assembly” meeting the space occupants of Harvard Yard, in a near-total capitulation to the requests of the Harvard administration, “consensed” (their term for an affirmative vote of 75% of those present at a particular meeting) on a resolution to end the encampment by taking down all of their tents by December 20 — by which time, conveniently, almost all students will be gone over winter break so few will witness the camp’s dismantling.   The vote to launch this Operation “Deoccupy Harvard” was contingent, however, on approval at the next “General Assembly” meeting, on December 15, of “messaging” to explain that decision.

As I noted on December 12 (Para. 4, here) the actual “message” behind the decamping is not difficult to grasp.  “Occupy Harvard” was launched on November 9 by undergraduate student labor activists who were piggybacking on the nationwide “Occupy” movement as a tactic in their struggle with the Harvard administration, in the face of a November 15 deadline to finalize a new janitors’ contract.  Indeed, so involved was “Big Labor” that money donated by the SEIU was used to buy many of the tents (here).  On November 18, after these labor activists had helped the janitors win an acceptable contract, at the “General Assembly” meeting they pressed for a date certain for decamping, to ensure a dignified exit given that the number of people committed to actually occupying the site 24/7 was rapidly dwindling.

The alternative, these labor activists pointed out, was to sit by while people continued to quit the movement, with the encampment predictably fizzling out to almost nothing by the late December winter break.  Twice on November 18 a majority of the “General Assembly” voted to close down the camp sometime around Thanksgiving, but Harvard affiliates whose social concerns are much broader than labor activism, and who were determined to try to continue the occupation, blocked the measure from achieving the needed 75% consensus.  (For more details see here.)  Many of the labor activists then quit the movement (some before the meeting was even over).

Despite their best efforts the remaining members of “Occupy Harvard” were unable to attract enough new members to the movement to keep even one person at the site at all times. The “Occupy Harvard” site was repeatedly left vacant, not just in the early morning or late at night, but in the middle of the afternoon, as this December 7 video showed.   So the concerns pressed by the labor activists on November 18, but rejected by a determined minority, turned out to be exactly correct.

In making my various observations about the site repeatedly being left vacant, I mean no disrespect to the incredibly committed core of “Occupy Harvard” members, not much more than a dozen, who have attempted to continue the occupation for the past several weeks despite the enormous personal sacrifices this involved. That they proved unable to reinforce their ranks enough to continue a meaningful occupation is through no lack of effort on their part, and is due in part to the weather, the exam schedule, the gates being closed off to outsiders, and the low opinion many undergraduates have of “Occupy Harvard” due to its roots in what many view as radical labor activism.  If I had been among this core group I would be making the same decision they’re making and I would be proud of having managed to exert the effort required to maintain “Occupy Harvard” this long.

Rather, the continuing coverage in this blog is aimed at documenting for the record — whatever conclusions people might now or later draw from it — that apparently unique among prominent “Occupy” occupations, “Occupy Harvard” is the first occupation that will end not because the occupiers were forced out by authorities (the Harvard administration has made clear they’re free to stay as long as they wish) but because the occupiers concluded that they did not have enough support in their ranks to continue a meaningful occupation.

One conclusion that might be drawn from this, with potential implications beyond Harvard, is that the “Occupy” phenomenon is nothing like the “Tea Party” phenomenon in its present potential to have a meaningful impact on American society, because in contrast to the “Tea Party” very few people are willing to take concrete steps to advance its goals.  If 400 people — just 1/10th of 1% of the perhaps 40,000 Harvard i.d. holders with access to Harvard Yard — had been willing to help occupy the site, the occupation would have continued indefinitely.  “Occupy Harvard” fell far short of this.  Even at its peak, “Occupy Harvard” had at most 1/100th of 1% of the Harvard community within its ranks, only 40 people willing to meaningfully occupy the site.

What we’ve had at Harvard this past month is a social experiment to test the viability of the “Occupy” movement.  Even at Harvard, where one would expect “Occupy” to be at its strongest, “Occupy” failed.  Members of a movement that advocates for 99% of society sat in Harvard Yard, with its few members rotating in shifts in a courageous but futile effort to staff a 24/7 occupation, while 99.99% of those eligible to help occupy declined to do so.  “Occupy Harvard” didn’t come even close to succeeding.  To have real viability the “Occupy” movement would need to grow by an order of magnitude beyond its present level of support, so that it could count at least 1/10th of 1% of the Harvard community as active supporters.

Although I maintain, and indeed emphasize, that the real reason why “Occupy Harvard” will imminently decamp is that it was unable to sustain an encampment without the support of the labor activists who launched it, one certainly cannot blame the members who remain for deciding on how best to “message” their decision to decamp, at least as long as the message is not completely divorced from the facts on the ground, and as long as their decision is reached through the “deliberative democracy” model they embrace, in “General Assembly” meetings open to the public, and not secretly, in pre-meeting meetings (as has unfortunately been the case from time to time).

And “Occupy Harvard” did a good job of messaging in its final statement of the reasons for decamping approved in the December 15 “General Assembly” meeting and published the next day on the website (here). Understandably that message does not dwell on past problems but looks forward to “the next phase of its occupation, with a focus on moving beyond mere physical occupation to occupying the hearts and minds of those beyond the university’s walls.” Rather than dwelling on (or even mentioning) the removal of all the tents presently at the site, the statement focuses on how “Occupy Harvard will consolidate the footprint of its original encampment to a winterized geodesic dome — provided by Occupy supporters at MIT — serving as a hub of activity and growth for the movement.”  (It is my understanding that the word “winterized” was added at the last minute to flag the possibility that there might be sleeping in the dome in the winter, which may fuel concerns by Harvard administrators about a possible “Trojan Dome Tactic” to make the site the 24/7 home of “Occupy New England,” concerns that the movement members may need to belie in talks with the administration in order to get the gates reopened.)  The statement ends with a focus on several of the “successes” during the past month, at least some of which seem arguable.

After the release of its statement, “Occupy Harvard” has gotten mostly positive press about its move, setting aside a short piece by Lauren Landry on web-based which snarkly — but concisely and accurately — summarizes the story as follows:  “The tents in Harvard Yard are coming down. Occupy Harvard is declaring victory and packing up.”

For example, this article in the December 16 Harvard Crimson stating that members of the movement insist “that the agreement to get rid of the tents was not due to administrative pressure” but instead due to the “impending winter weather and the inconvenience many people said they have experienced as a result of the closed gates,”and noting:  “Over winter break, an undetermined number of Occupy Harvard supporters will stay in the area to guard the remaining supplies and staff the information desk in the Yard.”  Somewhat negatively, however, the article points to vagueness on plans for the site going forward:  “What protestors will exactly do with the dome remains unclear, but they have tossed around several ideas, including using it as a movement hub, a space for an information desk or even as a place to sleep. ”

Also quite positive is this article in the December 17 Boston Globe, which summarized the move as follows:  “Calling it a transition, not a retrenchment, the student occupiers said they would remove the 20 sleeping tents that form the bulk of the camp but maintain a continual presence at the geodesic dome erected at its center, even through winter break.”

A longer, more nuanced, article by Eric Moskowitz appears in today’s Boston Globe (here).  In one of the few media accounts to note that “Occupy Harvard” has nothing like the sustained level of occupation which was continuously maintained at other “Occupy” sites until they were shut down, Moskowitz observes:

“A handful of occupiers sleep in some of the camping tents every night, and they also keep an information tent continually staffed, but the network of students and employees comprising the movement float in and out around classes, work, and exams.”

Obviously, as this blog has documented in detail, that observation is factually correct — indeed, at times the “occupation” has been so thin in staffing that the site has been left vacant, even in the middle of the afternoon.  Yet despite these obvious facts on the ground, today I noticed that on December 16 the “Occupy Harvard” twitter feed asserted (here) that “we’ve had about 20-25 people out there every night,” in response to a tweet by Cambridge resident Andy Mills (here) that the tents have “been empty every time I’ve walked by the yard and speaking with Harvard employees apparently they usually are.”  In response, Mills included links to internet resources (including this blog) documenting vacancies at the site (here).

It’s been awhile since I stopped by the site to see if anyone’s around.  Given the recent “Occupy Harvard” tweet claiming that at least 20 people are maintaining the encampment and its discrepancy with today’s Boston Globe, I think I ought to visit again to get another head count on the site.  I’ll try to report on that later today.

–“Major Tom”

As I reported in a post early Monday afternoon (here), on Sunday afternoon key members of the “Occupy Harvard” movement held a brainstorming session about how they might extricate themselves from their current miserable predicament:  so few of their members are actually willing to sleep at the site, or even staff the info desk for an hour or two a day, that the site is left vacant for increasingly lengthy periods of time, leading to intense ridicule — not just at Harvard, but globally via the internet (e.g., Breitbart.TV  and this post on the highly influential Instapundit blog).

As I noted in my blog post, there was general consensus that a proposal should be made at the Monday evening meeting of the “General Assembly” that all the tents are to be taken down and removed from the site, leaving only the newly erected geodesic dome — either immediately or, perhaps, within a week or so (e.g., once the undergraduate students are gone after finals are completed), to allow time to work on “messaging.”

Although I do not have first-hand knowledge of what happened at Monday evening’s meeting, my source “NS,” who I consider reliable (for the reasons mentioned in my Monday post), reports that this is exactly what happened at the “General Assembly.”  It was a very short meeting, especially compared to the marathon meetings I endured on November 14 and November 18, and my source reports that only two matters of importance were raised at the meeting (beyond updates from various groups and individuals on various matters, and various individual comments).

First, a woman labor activist (perhaps affiliated with the SEIU, though I couldn’t confirm this) gave notice that at the next “General Assembly” on Thursday night she (or someone affiliated with her; it’s not clear) plans to ask for a further resolution from “Occupy Harvard” opposing Harvard’s investment in HEI Hotels & Resorts.  Apparently she received only a lukewarm response:  someone pointed out that there have been several resolutions on this topic, and there was some concern expressed about “Occupy Harvard” placing too much emphasis on this Harvard-specific point, and being too closely allied with a Big Labor agenda generally.

Second, after a relatively moderate amount of debate and discussion, the “General Assembly” passed, with an overwhelming consensus, the following resolution to remove the tents by December 20, and explaining the rationale for that action:

“Occupy Harvard 2.0”

Our first month is over, and in the last 30 days we have greatly affected the discourse amongst students, faculty and staff alike, not to mention hundreds of outside followers.  This would not have been possible without our physical manifestation, and its visceral disruption of the status-quo confronting — inelectably — the local population.

In growing into our second month, to engage the risen discourse, we propose a modification of our physical presence:  a consolidation only in footprint, to an interactive community space built within the context of the dome and that can exist within open gates.

The immediate proposal entails two changes:

1.  That all other structure but for a supply tent is taken down in transforming the dome to a hub of activity, to host events small and large, from student unconferences to performances.   [My source tells me that by voice vote the reference to a supply tent was struck; every single tent will be removed by December 20.]  Timeframe:  December 16th-20th.

2. That the information space is reimagined out of its current iteration as a static space to be occupied at all hours, perhaps moving to address the public outside of the yard and including an engaging information board auxiliary to the dome.
Timeframe:  starting after the consolidation

To frame imminent points of information, clarifying questions, and amendments, this proposal is not to encompass the details, physical or otherwise, in the employment of the new space.  It is rather a request of confidence in taking the initiative in creating a convivial forum that enables great participation, the exact use and shape of the forum to be readdressed in the spring.

The key to understanding the effect of this proposal lies the references to the geodesic dome.

The first is the reference to a dome “that can exist within open gates.”  As I reported in my Monday post, what’s happening here is that “Occupy Harvard” is capitulating to the Harvard administration, which laid out a clear exit path:  stop sleeping at the site, and remove all the tents, and we’ll open the gates, and you can keep the dome and use it as a headquarters — keeping “Occupy Harvard” alive in name (allowing you to save face), though not in fact.

But the capitulation is not necessarily complete, it seems.  The resolution also references “transforming the dome to a hub of activity . . . .”  My source says that this is code for the reference made by people at the “General Assembly” meeting to making the dome the new headquarters for all “Occupy” activity in the area — once the gates are open, it can house “Occupy Cambridge,” “Occupy Boston,” and perhaps other elements of the “Occupy” movements. (Indeed, “Occupy Boston” expressed an interest in occupying Harvard as far back as October 23 as evidenced by this video.)  So it seems that those behind the dismantling of the tents may be pursuing what might aptly be called a “Trojan Dome” Tactic of removing the tents in order to lull the Harvard administration into opening the gates, after which non-Harvard elements of the “Occupy” movement will then be able to enter the Yard and adopt the dome as their new headquarters.

An aside, somewhat humorous, but also a bit troubling in terms of the lack of transparency in the movement:  At the end of the meeting, people involved with “messaging” the decamping requested that no one circulate the resolution, to prevent premature publicity about the forthcoming action. So naturally I thought it was important to put the resolution on this blog (my source was able to obtain a copy from someone on the Logistics Working Group which drafted the resolution). Note to “Occupy Harvard” planners:  when something happens at a “General Assembly” meeting that you don’t want leaked to outsiders, it might be best not to flag it as a super-secret secret that shouldn’t be leaked to outsiders, especially when you’re well aware that one or more members of your movement are leaking to outsiders.


Today’s Harvard Crimson features “A Liberal Critique” of “Occupy Harvard” by Harvard sophomore Katie R. Zavadski. The piece devastates what little credibility “Occupy Harvard” might have left — in part because the critique is from a writer whose liberal credentials are impeccable.  Ms. Zavadski is a high-ranking and long-serving member of the Harvard College Democrats and serves as the Race and Diversity Beat Reporter for the Crimson (see here).  Her Crimson articles seem to flow out of a solidly liberal world view (see here). Perhaps most important, her early Crimson coverage about “Occupy Harvard,” and especially about the “triumphant” mood of its members, was generally positive (see here).  It is the conduct of the members of “Occupy Harvard” since those early days that has led her, one senses reluctantly, to castigate the movement.

Here are some excerpts from Ms. Zavadski’s extremely detailed and well-reasoned essay, which is worth reading in its entirety for anyone interested in “Occupy Harvard”:

As Occupy Harvard prepares to weather the winter in Harvard Yard, the rest of us . . . secretly hope that the cold will drive them out. Over the past several months, the tent city has expanded although the numbers of occupiers seem to have dwindled, their tactics have grown more disruptive, and I — once genuinely curious about the potential effects of the Occupy Harvard movement — have grown more and more eager for its exit.

To be sure, I agree with many of their demands — a living wage for employees, socially responsible and transparent investments, and increased diversity among the faculty to name a few — and I know and like many of the undergraduate Occupiers personally. But as a liberal, every time I am told that someone is “surprised” that I am not occupying the yard myself I feel an easily explicable surge of anger.

*  *  *

. . . Occupy Harvard focuses on a very narrow base of support to grow its movement. With actions such as picketing and attempting to interrupt a Goldman Sachs recruiting session . . . Occupy alienated a large portion of the student body that might have been persuaded to be sympathetic to their causes.

*  *  *

Certainly, Goldman is a worthy target of the Occupy movement more broadly, but picketing an information session run largely by young professionals just a year or two out of Harvard achieves little other than alienating potential allies. For Occupy Harvard, there is a “with us or against us” mentality, and there is no middle ground to work with students who they may agree with on some issues and have disagreements with on others.

The downside of this is that the sheer self-righteousness of many of the occupiers renders an alternate version of events inconceivable. In her recent op-ed, Sandra Korn and fellow occupiers dismissed the University’s concerns for student safety — most shockingly the University’s statements about concerns over sexual assault — as illegitimate. . . .  Apparently to the Occupiers, the fact that sexual assaults occur — an unfortunate but inevitable reality — invalidates the University’s attempt to prevent more such incidents from occurring, especially in a space populated exclusively by our most vulnerable population, first-year students.

*  *  *

It is rather clear that Occupy’s goals are about inciting antagonism towards the University . . . .

*  *  *

.  .  . Occupy Harvard has little to do with the Occupy movement more broadly. Rather, the students occupying Harvard Yard are doing more to set back the causes they claim to champion in the long run than they are to advance them . . . .  A survey of over 1000 undergraduates performed by Stats 104 students found that Occupy Harvard was viewed favorably by only 2.84 out of 10 students, surely much lower than student support for the individual issues they’re pushing for and much lower than Harvard’s support for the Occupy movement nationally. The Occupy Harvard message isn’t working, and the movement is a coalition of a 0.1 percent. They would do well to tone down the rhetoric, tear down the tents, and try to bring more students in for a truly strong student movement.

–“Major Tom”

I have an important update about the status of “Occupy Harvard” — intelligence received from one of the commentators on my blog, “Not Spam,” who first commented here.  “Not Spam” (who I’ll abbreviate to “NS”) posted with the comment a valid Harvard undergrad e-mail address (viewable only by me, as the webmaster). Now that I’ve both e-mailed and spoken with NS, I consider NS a highly reliable source.

NS has a  prior connection with “Occupy Harvard” and is best described as a disillusioned, reluctant dissident.  NS offered to help me cover developments in the movement, if necessary by attending meetings and taking notes.  Yesterday either NS or someone NS spoke with (I’m not going to say which, in an effort to protect my source(s)) attended a high-level planning meeting held at the camp at 2 p.m., at which over a dozen people were present, which lasted for over an hour, in which the future of the camp was debated in detail.  Here are the highlights, as best I could gather them from my source, who did not take any contemporaneous notes:

1.  Harvard’s space occupants are deeply rattled by the so-called “stalkers” who are coming by the camp, apparently on a regular basis, to take photos of the camp being left empty. Imagine that!  (Funny, I thought “stalkers” are those who “stalk” actual people, not inanimate objects like tents and discarded plastic and other garbage).  The space occupants know they’re the subject of intense ridicule both at Harvard and on the internet (e.g., the comments on my YouTube video, here), and they’re looking to exit this miserable situation as soon as possible.

2.  Indeed, one person at the meeting (apparently the French woman who was very active at the November 18 “General Assembly” meeting, see Paragraph 55, here), made a motion which was seriously debated that the group should immediately take down most of the tents, that afternoon, without even raising the matter with the “General Assembly.” Apparently in part because the next regularly scheduled “General Assembly” meeting would be held the next evening (tonight), that motion was rejected.  But there apparently was a strong consensus that in the near future all or nearly all of the tents should be taken down; all that remains to be decided are the details.

3. According to my source, one proposal that apparently will be made tonight, favored by a very old member of the movement who attended the meeting (quite possibly the fellow I call “SDS Dinosaur,” see Paragraph 25, here), is that immediately after the “General Assembly” meeting tonight all the tents should be taken down, leaving only the newly erected geodesic dome, with no effort to explain why this is being done (which seems in synch with an earlier comment by SDS Dinosaur that sometimes people can agree to take a particular action even if they can’t agree on why).  Others apparently plan to propose that the members of the movement try to wait another week or so, until all the undergraduate students are gone after finals are completed, before the tents are taken down, which would also allow time to work on “messaging.”

4.  Of course, the message here is already obvious.  “Occupy Harvard” has fizzled out in failure.  After an initial burst of energy and excitement during the first few days after the movement started on November 9, the “encampment” has been left vacant on many occasions, as has been obvious to passersby, some who have taken photos of the vacancy, photos which when publicized created an “Emperor Has No Clothes” situation. Discussion at the meeting yesterday apparently centered on the group’s inability to schedule at least one person to be present at the camp at all times — it can’t even find enough people willing to spend an hour or two a day at the info desk to keep it staffed throughout the day, much less people willing to actually sleep at the camp during the winter.  Reportedly, the movement has pariah status among the undergraduates, who from the beginning have regarded it as “SLAM with tents” (with good reason — the Big-Labor-affiliated “Student Labor Action Movement” bought many of the tents with money donated by the SEIU, according to this Harvard Crimson story, and SLAM members dominated the pivotal “General Assembly” meetings held on November 14 and 18, see here and here), making it unlikely that the movement’s strength can build.

5.  On the bright side, and as a constructive point, this development confirms the wisdom of majority rule.  As I summarized here, at the pivotal November 18 “General Assembly” meeting, following up on exhaustive planning in a pre-meeting meeting, because it was obvious the “encampment” had to end before late December, majorities twice voted to:  (1) set a date certain for decamping; and (2) plan and publicize positive, upbeat events to coincide with decampment.  The strongly motivated majority persuasively argued that this course was necessary so that the occupation would end on its own terms rather than simply fizzle out and be widely regarded as having ended in failure.  Twice equally determined, though basically clueless, minorities thwarted that effort, taking advantage of the consensus governance rules requiring a super-majority vote of 75% for approval of any proposal.  Now the majority’s fears, and entirely accurate predictions, have come to pass.  “Occupy Harvard” has fizzled out in failure, as predicted.  Unlike occupiers in New York, Los Angeles, downtown Boston, and elsewhere, these movement members don’t even enjoy the dignity of standing their ground until being forced out by authorities.  The Harvard space occupants are simply giving up — even though the Harvard administration has made clear they’re free to camp in their tents as long as they like!

6.  Oh, I almost forgot.  There”s a super-secret secret that nobody outside yesterday afternoon’s meeting is supposed to talk about.  One reason there’s such a strong consensus in favor of taking down the tents, and leaving just the dome, is that from the very start, in the first meeting held between the Harvard administration and members of the occupation (apparently in the last week or two), the administration made clear that if the tents were removed and no one was sleeping at the site, it would be fine for the dome to remain, the gates would be opened up even with the dome there, and members of the “Occupy Harvard” movement could use the dome as their headquarters for various free speech activities related to the movement — so that “Occupy Harvard” could continue in name, though not in fact.

So what’s happening here is that the space occupants are accepting the exit strategy outlined by the Harvard administrators.  Apparently the key planners at yesterday’s meeting want this to be kept super-secret because they hope to obscure the fact that, in taking down all the tents and leaving just the dome, they’re completely capitulating to the Harvard administrators.  (Note to space occupant planners:  in the future, if you want to keep one of many details discussed in a meeting secret from those to whom details might be leaked, it might be best not to focus on that detail as being super-secret; my source only thought to mention this to me because there was so much focus on it being kept secret!)

Although I have not had time to review it and doubt I will blog on it, for those interested, “Occupy Harvard” held a Teach In on December 7.  Its press release on the event is here.  Its Live-streaming and Live-tweeting of the event is here.  Audio of the event, conveniently arranged in segments for each professor speaking, is here.  YouTube video, also conveniently segmented by speaker, is here.

Amy Q. Friedman of the Harvard Crimson covered the event; her story is here.

Yesterday afternoon I went to check on how “Occupy Harvard” was doing.  Not so well.  It had been left vacant, again.

Not simply, as I’ve documented previously (e.g., November 12, November 18, and November 19), in the relatively early morning.  That was perhaps understandable given that after the first couple of nights few, if any, of Harvard’s “space occupants” were actually sleeping in the tents.  No, this time I found the site vacant in the middle of the afternoon, while there was considerable foot traffic through Harvard Yard, so that many people could notice the non-occupation.

Don’t take my word for it; you can view the minute-and-a-half video I shot while circling the site here.  Note that at about 0:30 I show you the inside of the huge blue geodesic dome dominating the site which the space occupants seem quite proud of (see here and here).  On the outside the dome states that it’s “OCCUPIED,” but on the inside . . . well, you’ll have to watch the video.

Here are some photos documenting the continuing non-occupancy of “Occupy Harvard”:  (1) wide shots, which show various people in Harvard Yard even on a rainy day (everywhere, it seems, except at the “occupation”) here, here, and here; and (2) closeups documenting the state of the camp, and no visible occupants (not even at the info desk inside the center tent), here, here, here, and here.

In viewing these photos (and my earlier photos documenting the non-occupation of the site) it’s worth keeping in mind the commitment expressed at the top of the homepage of “Occupy Harvard”:  “Occupy Harvard is located in Harvard Yard 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Also, I took a few photos showing that the gates to Harvard Yard are still barred to those lacking Harvard i.d.s, due to an “encampment” which hasn’t been taken down even though it’s not occupied in any meaningful sense — and in particular, showing the impact on tourists who would like to see the Yard but must settle for taking photos through the gates.  See here, here, here, and here. I shot a brief video of a tour group which was unable to get into the Yard, which you can view here (the Harvard Crimson has a video about the impact of “Occupy Harvard” on tourists, here.)

And now for my substantive point.  “Occupy Harvard” being left vacant in the middle of the afternoon, less than a month since its launch, is a concrete example of the downside of the anarchic governance model at the heart of the “Occupy” movement, which is also at the heart of its failure to achieve anything of consequence.  At the November 18 so-called “General Assembly” of “Occupy Harvard” I saw the future of so-called “participatory democracy” or “deliberative democracy” — the governance model suggested by anarchists who were involved in the early planning of “Occupy Wall Street” (see here) — and it does not work, not even at Harvard.  And if it cannot not work even at Harvard, when applied by people who strike me almost without exception as intelligent, principled, and public spirited, then I doubt it can work anywhere.

First, a bit of an overview on the history of “Occupy” governance elsewhere.  Members of this movement, who seek to get attention for issues they deem important by occupying prominent spaces (who may thus appropriately be termed “space occupants”), function as part of a collective, leaderless body. From time to time they hold a meeting of the “General Assembly” (really just anyone who shows up) which governs by “modified consensus,” under which no action is possible unless a super-majority (typically 70% or higher) agrees.  The adoption of this process apparently was largely accidental.  According to Marrissa Holmes, a graduate student involved in planning “Occupy Wall Street” (here), the “General Assembly” process was used at the start simply as a mode of discussing ideas and planning the initial occupation.  It was never “designed to function as a decision-making body. No one expected the occupation to last very long, so no one thought to create a structure to manage it.”

The result at “Occupy Wall Street,” as Matthew Wolfe has written in Dissent Magazine, has been a “shambolic failure. Meetings drag on for hours, often stalling over niggling disputes or picayune questions of procedure. A few committed obstructionists will often hold up funds necessary for camp operations. Critical concerns — for example, what to do about the looming winter — go unaddressed, as the assembly finds itself overwhelmed by logistical issues. As a result, many of the movement’s most experienced, committed supporters, believing GAs useless, have stopped attending, effectively ceding its control to newcomers.”

Similar problems occurred at “Occupy Portland,” which “was completely and utterly paralyzed” by consensus governance.  In “Occupy Richmond,” paralysis didn’t just affect decisions on “something vital,” but on minor issues like “which park to meet next in.   . . .  For maybe forty-five minutes the assembly stalled as people waited for the vote for which park to occupy . . . a paralysis, a computer stuck in a loop.  . . .  Then came the first vote on which park to occupy.  One had a clear majority, but neither was going to get the unattainable 90%.  More dithering – a bad jittery listlessness.  . . .  People were yelling now, ‘simple majority!’ and ‘majority rules!’  Even people who would lose were anxious for a final vote – people wanted resolution.”  (Quotes from this article.)

Well, does this anarchic governance process work any better at Harvard?  Apparently it didn’t work well back in the 1960s, when used by the Harvard chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), as contemporaneously documented by the Harvard Crimson here.  And it doesn’t seem to work any better at Harvard even in the 21st century, judging from the pivotal “General Assembly” meetings of “Occupy Harvard” which I attended on November 14 and 18.  (Ironically, apparently providing a bridge of sorts between two futile activist movements, also in attendance was a fellow who says he was a Harvard SDS member in the 1960s — to safeguard his identity I call him, somewhat irreverently, “SDS Dinosaur.”)

As summarized previously here, the November 14 “General Assembly” meeting which dragged on more than three hours consisted largely of speeches by Big Labor officials and debate about a press release that student representatives of Big Labor had proposed, focused on current bargaining objectives on behalf of employees of Harvard or Harvard-owned entities — illustrating the degree to which the “Occupy” movement is being captured or at least directed by Big Labor interests.  Spurred on by the Big Labor activists who had done much of the work in setting up and staffing “Occupy Harvard,” a clear majority of those present twice voted in favor of an official statement by “Occupy Harvard” demanding two concessions by the Harvard administration on labor-related matters.

Twice this determined majority was thwarted by a determined minority of people who I call “social utopians” (anarchists, Marxists, socialists, etc.), who favored no statement at all or a broad statement about a need for a radical restructuring of society, or who objected that to make “demands” implied that if the demands were met, the camp would be taken down.  The Big Labor activists refused to abide by the consensus process.  Instead, they began making threats and ultimatums.  Even after the Big Labor activists threatened to abandon the movement, so that almost no one would be sleeping in the tents or staffing the info desk, the determined minority refused to consent to the majority vote in favor of the proposed resolution.  Eventually, after three hours of debate, ultimatums, and counter-ultimatums, all the group could agree on was to issue a watered-down and confusion version of the original proposal which expressed “solidarity” with Harvard workers and made two demands on their behalf, but stated that even if the demands were met, “Occupy Harvard” wouldn’t leave Harvard Yard.

Even more chaotically, in the end the result of this consensus process was ignored.  The next morning the Big Labor activists, who apparently control the “Occupy Harvard” website (at posted on the website, as the official statement of “Occupy Harvard,” the original resolution which had twice been defeated because it had not received the required consensus vote of 75% in favor (see postscript here).

The November 18 “General Assembly” meeting (previously summarized here) was even more chaotic.  By the end it descended into anarchy, setting the stage for the encampment being left vacant yesterday.  As recounted in my detailed notes (here), similar to what happened in “Occupy Richmond,” it took about 45 minutes for those attending the meeting, most of whom were suffering from hypothermia, to achieve a consensus that the meeting should be held inside where it was warm.  Once inside, the Big Labor activists unveiled a proposal that they’d put together at a pre-meeting meeting two nights earlier — that the group should:  (1) set a date certain for ending the encampment (either shortly before or shortly after Thanksgiving); and (2) decide on some sort of noteworthy event to coincide with decampment, such as declaring victory and having a big party, and holding a march, or moving some tents over to the business school to occupy it for a day, or something similar.

As in the November 14 meeting, a determined majority, led by the Big Labor activists, insisted on the two measures.  Twice a majority voted for them.  But a determined minority thwarted them, its members explaining that they didn’t join the movement to advance the short-term Big Labor interests which had been by then largely satisfied (in particular, the successful conclusion of a new contract for SEIU-represented Harvard custodians), or to make particular demands, but instead to occupy Harvard for the sake of occupying Harvard, and thereby calling attention to a variety of issues (just which ones they didn’t seem particularly focused on specifying).  As before, when the Big Labor activists did not get their way they did not abide by the consensus process but instead made threats and ultimatums.  These proved fruitless.  Eventually several of the Big Labor activists walked out of the meeting, quitting the movement.

Before he left, one of the Big Labor activists, who — borrowing one of his frequent expressions, I call the “Do Stuff Guy” — made a suggestion which turns out to be the governing philosophy of “Occupy Harvard”:  governance by anarchy.  He didn’t see any point in further debate or voting on the direction of the movement.  He suggested that people should just do what they want to do, camp if they want to camp, demonstrate if they want to demonstrate, etc., and as to this suggestion — perhaps in part because everyone was so exhausted by the marathon debate, which was obviously fruitless — he was received with widespread expressions of support.  However, some people responded with what I regarded as an excellent point:  that given the immense strain of trying to occupy the site during cold weather and the limited base of support the movement currently has, such an undisciplined, anarchic approach would inevitably mean that the encampment will fizzle out without any definite decision to end the encampment, and without the occupation ending on the movement’s own terms, so that ultimately it would be viewed as a failure.

That’s exactly what I saw yesterday afternoon in the middle of the afternoon, when “Occupy Harvard” was left vacant.  This is what anarchy looks like.

–“Major Tom”


Today the Harvard Crimson published another editorial against “Occupy Harvard,” this time attacking its recent efforts to disrupt a Goldman Sachs recruiting event.  Here.  An excerpt:

[T]he protest carried with it a strong sentiment against Harvard undergraduates seeking careers in the financial services industry. Perhaps it is not ideal that so many of us go on to Wall Street, but targeting individuals looking at career options in this way is hardly the appropriate remedy.  Many students who enter these fields are not the scions of banking families but rather hard-working students looking for a challenging job that lets them experience a newfound financial prosperity. To exhort students to consider their contribution to society when choosing a career is one thing but to target those who want to work for Goldman Sachs misses the point; whatever negative impact the company has on our economy is due to structural issues rather than questions of individual morality.  Deterring a couple dozen Harvard students from working at Goldman will not change income inequality nor will it create a more equitable society. Goldman will just hire the next people in line.

Occupy’s actions continue to erode whatever student support it gained on the heels of a successful janitorial contract. Pitching a simplistic conception of the financial crisis and targeting fellow students is not the way to have a successful movement.  Occupy ought to refrain from such ill-conceived protests in the future.

On November 29 the Crimson published an initial piece which included video, here. (Update, 12/6:  a letter defending the protest was published here.)

Today’s Crimson also published a feature article by a Crimson staff writer:  “My Night With Occupy Harvard.”

–“Major Tom”


On the heels of disrupting a Harvard event featuring Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (see Paragraph 4, here), “Occupy Harvard” has now spotlighted its success in disrupting a Harvard event featuring Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter (here).

You can watch a video here.  A classy bunch of social activists, to be sure.  It was covered by the Harvard Crimson here, and by a Philadelphia paper here.

–“Major Tom”


Last night Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges gave a speech to “Occupy Harvard” and stayed overnight.  Coverage on the “Occupy Harvard” website here and here.

Update (12/1): video of the speech is collected here.

Three of Harvard’s most prominent “space occupants” — Jack Hamilton, Sandra Y.L. Korn, and Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington — have published in today’s Harvard Crimson an open letter to Harvard president Drew Faust responding to Faust’s open letter on “Occupy Harvard” of November 21 (here).

Today’s Harvard Crimson published this article on the current status of “Occupy Harvard,” and a letter from one of the Harvard “space occupants” entitled:  “This is Why We Occupy.”

Yesterday “Occupy Harvard” published a tract called “Occupy Harvard Crimson,” here.  It’s just a collection of essays with no apparent connection to the Harvard Crimson; seemingly the idea behind the title was simply to lift the name of the campus newspaper (in a possible trademark infringement) — not particularly clever, at least by Harvard standards.

In light of the chaotic and exhausting, but eerily fascinating, “General Assembly” (or “GA”) meeting on November 14, I decided to attend the next GA, on November 18, which was touted as the GA that would determine the fate of “Occupy Harvard.”  I think it lived up to that billing, though probably not in the way its key organizers intended.  It’s pretty clear that “Occupy Harvard” will never get its act together, so this was probably the last GA I’ll be taking the time to attend.

Important to this Friday night GA was the back story.  Two days earlier, many of the Big Labor activists, and their allies, who played a key role in setting up the encampment and staffing it, and who had pushed for a labor-focused mission statement at the November 14 GA (see here), had a pre-meeting meeting which apparently lasted for several hours. Reportedly about 40 people attended, and all but two agreed that the upcoming GA should approve two measures:  (1) a date certain for ending the encampment should be set (either shortly before or shortly after Thanksgiving); and (2) some sort of noteworthy event should be scheduled to coincide with decampment, such as declaring victory and having a big party, and holding a march, or moving some tents over to the business school to occupy it for a day, or something similar.

The basic impulse behind this proposal was that the Big Labor activists who have been the driving force behind the encampment were getting burned out, that they’d achieved their key aim of helping the Harvard custodians win an acceptable new contract, and so all things considered it seemed best to end the occupation on their own terms by declaring victory, having a party, and leaving Harvard Yard.  Indeed, as I noted in a comment back on November 13 (here), apparently this was the plan of the Big Labor activists from close to the beginning of the occupation.

As in the November 14 meeting, a determined majority, led by the Big Labor activists, insisted on the two measures.  Twice a majority voted for them.  But a determined minority thwarted this plan.  Its members, who comprise what I’ve termed the “social utopian” bloc, led by Kavi, who was particularly outspoken, explained that they hadn’t joined the movement to advance the short-term interests of Big Labor, or to make particular demands, but instead to occupy Harvard for the sake of occupying Harvard, and thereby calling attention to a variety of issues (just which ones they didn’t seem particularly focused on specifying).  As before, when the Big Labor activists did not get their way, they did not abide by the consensus process but instead made threats and ultimatums.  These proved fruitless.  Eventually several of the Big Labor activists walked out of the meeting, quitting the movement.

Before he left, one of the Big Labor activists, Jesse (who, borrowing one of his frequent expressions, I call the “Do Stuff Guy”) expressed what turns out to be the governing philosophy of “Occupy Harvard”:  governance by anarchy.  He didn’t see any point in further debate or voting on the direction of the movement.  He suggested that people should just do what they want to do, camp if they want to camp, demonstrate if they want to demonstrate, etc., and on this — perhaps because everyone was so exhausted by the marathon debate, which was obviously fruitless — he was received with widespread expressions of support.  However, some people responded with what I regarded as an excellent point:  that given the immense strain of trying to occupy the site during cold weather and the limited base of support the movement currently has, such an undisciplined, anarchic approach would inevitably mean that the encampment will fizzle out without any definite decision to end the encampment, and without the occupation ending on the movement’s own terms, so that ultimately it would be viewed as a failure.

This is just a very brief summary of what occurred at the meeting.  For a detailed — probably too-detailed — rehash of the meeting, you can read my complete and heavily polished-up notes here.  It strikes me that “Occupy Harvard” will in the not-too-near future end in failure. If so, these notes on the November 18 GA may in the future be a useful resource in the examination of why the movement failed.

The use of the “Occupy Harvard” website by those who control it to support their own political viewpoints, in the name of “Occupy Harvard” even though the statements have never been approved by the General Assembly, has descended into farce.  Today the website announces (here):

Occupy Harvard stands in solidarity with all people struggling for equality and against oppression.  Yesterday was the 13th International Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day for remembrance and memorialization for transgender-identified people killed due to hate crimes.  . . .  Trans liberation is our liberation. Yesterday and for the entirety of our occupation, Occupy Harvard remains in solidarity with all people struggling for recognition and justice, and we, too, took this day to stand in vigil for victims of anti-transgender violence.

The “Occupy” movement has experienced difficulty in explaining what it stands for, but generally the idea has been that the rich, or the government, or some group of people or entities identifiable as “the 1%” is holding down “the 99%.”  Transgender justice issues have no logical connection to anything the “Occupy” movement has addressed to date.  The failure of “Occupy Harvard” to control those running its website, who apparently are free to post anything they like in the name of the movement, will help ensure that the movement will rapidly lose whatever credibility it had to start with.

–“Major Tom”


Yesterday whoever controls the “Occupy Harvard” website — — made three potentially controversial posts purporting to represent the position of “Occupy Harvard,” none of which has been approved by a meeting of the “General Assembly,” the sole body authorized to approve such statements (which I know because I attended the last two meetings).

The first (here) expressed solidarity with the U.C. Davis protesters.  To date the General Assembly has only approved expressions of solidarity on labor issues related to Harvard.

The second (here) spoke positively of Mario Savio and the U.C. Berkeley so-called “Free Speech Movement.”  Both Savio and his movement are controversial in at least some circles (more on that, perhaps, later), and as best I have been able to determine this subject has never been put before the General Assembly for consideration.

The third (here) depicts a cartoon of a Harvard i.d. on which an image of someone in a Guy Fawkes mask from the movie “V for Vendetta” appears — the person in the Fawkes mask being identified as one of the 99% that Harvard seems to be afraid of.  Both the real Fawkes, and the character depicted in the movie, were terrorists (see here and here), and thus by this image “Occupy Harvard” seems to be associating itself with, if not terrorists themselves, at minimum a glamorization of terrorism.  As best I have been able to determine the General Assembly has never voted to approve anything alone these lines, so it’s pretty clear that on a routine basis the website is being updated with content, sometimes controversial, which is represented to be the position of “Occupy Harvard” but in fact is nothing of the sort.

Update:  today there’s another use of the Guy Fawkes image on a Harvard i.d. card, here.

–“Major Tom”


Further evidence that Big Labor, specifically the SEIU, is a — maybe the — driving force behind “Occupy Harvard” is contained in the SEIU’s press release thanking “Occupy Harvard” for its help in winning the Harvard custodians a new contract, republished on the “Occupy Harvard” website here.  Indeed, money donated by the SEIU was used to buy many of the tents, according to the Harvard Crimson.

–“Major Tom”


Well, it’s Day 10 of “Occupy Harvard” — or, given recent trends reinforced by my findings today, perhaps more accurately “Non-Occupy Harvard.”

I began my latest tour of the gate areas and of the “encampment” about 8:45 a.m., at the west gate to Harvard Yard adjoining Massachusetts Avenue.  Here’s a wide shot (you can see the tents in the distance, behind the police cruiser — click on the photos for full-screen detail):












Here’s a zoom photo, shot through the right of the gate (that’s the John Harvard statue in the center):









For those interested in a look at Harvard Square, here are a couple of photos, one a panorama (note the time on the bank clock):











I next walked north, then east to the north gate (adjoining the Science Center), where I happened upon a blue-uniformed Harvard motorcycle cop talking with a yellow-jacketed regular Harvard cop (I didn’t know Harvard had motorcycle cops):









I continued walking east, then south, until I reached the east gate near Lamont Library.  By then the Harvard motorcycle cop was talking with the guards posted at that gate:










I then walked south, then west, to the main south gate on Massachusetts Avenue.  The gate was heavily staffed by both regular Harvard cops and Securitas officers (in brown jackets); here are several shots:




























There sure are a lot of guards; are they expecting an invasion?

Then the Harvard motorcycle cop showed up.  He sure does get around!   I’m not sure what he was chatting about with the guards — maybe about the empty “encampment” (see below).























Then a group of tourists piled out of a grey bus and started taking photos of the gate.


















I spoke with the woman in blue in the second photo.  She said they were visiting from China.  I asked whether they had wanted to visit Harvard Yard.  In somewhat broken English she responded, with a mixture of exasperation and resignation, with what I rate as the quote of the day:  “It is prohibited!”

I next toured Harvard Yard and circled the “encampment,” documenting that today, as was the case yesterday, no one is actually occupying the site (at least not visibly).  Here’s a shot from the southeast corner of the Yard:






Here’s a shot from the south:








Here’s a shot from the southwest (the Securitas guard in the middle was the only guard I saw in the immediate vicinity):









Here’s another shot from the southwest, showing that even the info desk was abandoned (apparently all the so-called members of “Occupy Harvard” are occupying Yale today, at The Game):








Here’s the view from the west:







Here’s a view from the southwest:








Meanwhile, outside the perimeter of Harvard Yard, where squadrons of guards stand watch over empty tents, those denied access to this exclusive enclave do their best to cope.

A woman walks down Massachusetts Avenue opposite the south gate . . .













. . . while another woman runs:













On Brattle Street a panhandler panhandles . . .













. . . while Bruno (brown  male dog) tries getting friendly with Miranda (white unspayed female Siberian Husky) to their owners’ amusement (his owner, wearing a Boston University sweatshirt, explains that Bruno is unneutered, “but not for long,” telling him, “get it while it’s hot!”):










–“Major Tom”


Lately I’ve been seeing pieces about the  difficulty the “Occupy” movement has been having, due largely to the  consensus governance model adopted at the start at the behest of its anarchist members (see here), in communicating to the public a clear message about its rationale and aims — and about how Big Labor has increasingly reached into the movement to turn it to its own purposes.

On Occupy’s general messaging problem, for example, is this essay by Russell Working in today’s PR Daily, excerpted in part by Ed Morrissey on  “the movement blew it by having no overriding purpose, stated goals, or visible leadership, . . . and it is increasingly perceived as a bunch of publicity-hungry complainers intent on disrupting others who are making a living.”

Like nature, politics abhors a vacuum.  Big Labor’s efforts to coopt the “Occupy” movement are illustrated by last night’s Occupy Boston march, which was organized and directed by Big Labor as this Boston Herald article summarizes.  Indeed, to make sure that the union’s media strategy would not be disrupted by any outbreak of violence, the union forces worked with the police to prevent the Occupy anarchists from taking over a bridge. Boston’s police superintendent is quoted in the article as follows:  “The anarchists tried to take it over, but the union organizers wouldn’t let them . . . . They actually stopped them before they reached the (police line).”

The recent coverage of the “Occupy” messaging problem and Big Labor involvement convinced me that I should take the time to polish up my notes from the meeting of the “General Assembly” of Occupy Harvard held on Monday evening (November 18).  If you’re interested, you can read them here.  In summary, the meeting lasted well over three hours.  It consisted largely of speeches by Big Labor officials and debate about a press release that student representatives of Big Labor had proposed, focused on current bargaining objectives on behalf of employees of Harvard or Harvard-owned entities.

The objective of the meeting was seemingly simple:  to issue, for the first time, an official statement as to why the Harvard students and others were occupying Harvard Yard — either the proposed Big Labor statement, or some other statement.  The consensus governance model, however, posed a huge obstacle to that objective, as there was a fundamental divide between two warring camps in the movement, and neither camp was able through rational debate to convince enough members of the group that its approach was the correct one (a finding of “consensus” requires a vote of either 75% and 90% of those present in favor, depending on whether a “block” is announced).

The Big Labor activists favored a concrete focus on benefiting Harvard union workers. Others, who for lack of a better word I’ll call “social utopians” (anarchists, Marxists, socialists, etc.), favored no statement at all, or a broad statement about a need for a radical restructuring of society.  In the end, despite all the talk in the “Occupy” movement about governance by consensus, the Big Labor activists prevailed through the hard-ball political tactic of threatening to shut down Occupy Harvard if they did not get their way.

Monday’s “General Assembly” meeting thus provides a window into the process through which it seems the “Occupy” movement may well lose its soul, as the broad-minded and idealistic (if perhaps naive) originators of the movement are muscled to the sidelines by focused operatives of Big Labor.  Harvard undergraduate Max Novendstern addressed this dynamic in an essay published Wednesday in the Harvard Political Review (here), and last night in a debate at the Kennedy School of Government he commented that Occupy Harvard “is not a “broadly inclusive social movement” but instead more of “a specific, special interests campaign.”  (Harvard Crimson article on debate here.)

So here are my notes on Monday’s “General Assembly” meeting.  If my recollection strikes anyone as incorrect or incomplete in any material respect, please comment below, and I will certainly make any correction to this post that might be needed.

–“Major Tom”


I’m back to my semi-regular routine of stopping by the “encampment” of “Occupy Harvard” to find out whether anyone’s actually bothering to occupy the site. Today I visited about 9:30 a.m.

As you can see from this photo, there were no visible space occupants — not at the original info desk (left side of photo, in distance), nor in the big tent which served as the info desk during the recent rain (left side of photo, in foreground), nor around the other tents:










For the first time, I didn’t notice any police officers in the immediate vicinity — apparently there’s little if any activity for them to police.

So today’s score is:  1 photographer, 0 cops, 0 occupants.

The burden the space occupants are imposing on others as a result of their occupation — or, increasingly it seems, non-occupation — of Harvard Yard continues.  One of the commentators on this blog, J.P. McMahon, had this to say about that  (here):

I visited Cambridge this summer and the experience was idyllic. The BEAUTIFUL campus with so many different people doing so many productive and artistic things. Tourists and prospective students and their families loving every moment they were there. The surrounding town of Cambridge, with its so many lovely houses, good bookstores, restaurants, and other diversions. And the people there were so diverse, and nice! Did the Occupy Harvard folks just feel the need to set a little ugliness into the middle of what is a pretty beautiful scene? Why do I have the feeling that the Occupy folks feel the need to do this where ever they are, because the places that they are setting up with their shantytowns always seem to be such aesthetically pleasing and normally pleasant places?

As my latest example of the negative effect on others, after visiting the “encampment,” while walking north from Harvard Yard I happened upon a group of Korean tourists who had been denied access to the Yard.  They had to settle for a visit to Holmes Field, where they photographed Langdell Hall at Harvard Law School.
















–“Major Tom”

Yesterday the Harvard Crimson published an editorial calling on “Occupy Harvard” to leave Harvard Yard.  Here.

Also, today the Crimson covered a student-led petition drive asking “Occupy Harvard” to leave the Yard (here), published a letter from a student on the need to hold “Occupy Harvard” accountable (here), and published an especially caustic letter from another student entitled:  “The Disgrace of Occupy Harvard” (here).

–“Major Tom”

Thanks mainly to posts by Prof. Glenn Reynolds on Instapundit and Joel Pollak on, this blog has gotten surprisingly heavy attention and has attracted a sizable number of comments.  Given that interest, and feeling a continuing obligation to update the 99.999995% of the world’s population currently barred from access to Harvard Yard, I stopped by the “encampment” around 8:40 a.m. this morning to see how the so-called “occupation” was going.

Thus I can now report that “Occupy Harvard” has officially achieved the status of “World’s Smallest Occupation.”  Whereas Saturday morning it was, technically, a non-occupation (with 2 photographers, 2 cops, 0 occupants), today the score is:  2 photographers, 1 cop, 1 occupant.  Need proof?  Here are the photos:

Photo 1 features the 2 photographers (including me), plus the lone occupant (a woman sitting at the info desk, in a blue jacket, just to the left of the dark blue tent — click on photo for full-screen version):








Photo 2, slightly wider shot, showing all the tents:






Photo 3, closeup of the woman at the info desk (note there’s much less food available than on the morning of Day 3 — compare this photo and, if you’re interested, read this reader comment about Occupy Harvard’s initial stock of “eco apples” and Pepperidge Farm soft cookies):











Photo 4, another closeup of the lone occupant, from the left rear:







Photo 5, wide shot from the same angle, documenting no visible occupants except for the woman at the info desk:







Photo 6, long-distance shot looking east toward the John Harvard statue:







In addition to 2 photographers and 1 occupant, there was a member of the staff of Securitas (the contractor that handles routine security for Harvard; unlike on Day 3, I didn’t see any yellow-jacketed Harvard University Police Department officers in the immediate vicinity, a further indication that at this point there aren’t many actual “occupiers” to worry about).  Here’s a picture of her:











Thus, when I visited, the lone occupant of “Occupy Harvard” was outnumbered 3 to 1 by photographers and security personnel.

The Securitas officer seemed to be keeping a careful eye on the “encampment”:












So I asked her whether she’d seen anyone using the tents.  She said no.  Of course, she’s not on duty 24/7.  However, the strong impression around this place that all the tents are empty, pretty much all the time, is reflected by today’s Harvard Crimson, which on page A6 features a photograph of the tents, with no occupants in sight, underneath which is a caption reading:  “The tents, now empty, once boasted around 60 inhabitants.” To see that page, click here:










My last photo taken around the “encampment” was of the announcement board, which indicated that the next “General Assembly” of Occupy Harvard will be held at 6 p.m. tonight (note that on the board Occupy Harvard is claiming today is Day 6 of the occupation, evidently based on the idea that Wednesday night starting at 10:30 p.m. should be counted as a full “day”; this blog will use the the Crimson‘s approach which counted Thursday as Day 1):












Apparently the “General Assembly” is open to anyone who wants to attend.  Maybe I’ll attend tonight.

Given that by now, Day 5, it’s pretty obvious to pretty much everyone that “Occupy Harvard” is a failure, because for much of the time either no one, or just one person, is actually occupying this site despite it being crammed with 26 tents designed to sleep 60, Occupy Harvard has a huge public relations problems:  even though virtually none in the movement are committed enough to actually occupy the site, the presence of the “encampment” is inconveniencing thousands of Harvard students, faculty, and staff each day, and barring hundreds of tourists each day from seeing Harvard Yard.  That problem is reflected on the lead story in today’s Harvard Crimson (for online version, including reader comments, click here):



















Here are a few photos to give you an idea of the imposition on the Harvard community caused by the “occupation” forces who are too lazy to actually occupy the site in any meaningful way.

Outside of south gate, on Massachusetts Ave.:









Inside the same gate:












Outside the north gate, facing the Science Center (the gate the Occupy Harvard mob stormed on Wednesday night):










Closeup of a Cambridge police officer assigned to the north gate (I doubt many would-be occupiers will try muscling past this guy):












Inside the north gate, facing out:









Same vantage point, while passing through the gate,










I did find one positive bit of news amidst the ruins of the “Occupy Harvard” movement:  someone is trying to make a buck off it, demonstrating that capitalism is alive and well even at Harvard.  The Harvard student group in charge of merchandise sales for the upcoming Harvard-Yale game, which this year will be played at Yale, is selling “Occupy Yale” t-shirts which read on the back, “We are the 6.2%” (bragging of Harvard’s low acceptance rate of applicants, which is evidently lower than Yale’s).

Here are a couple of photos:






















Update (11/15):  News coverage of the t-shirts can be found at Gawker and Fox, among other outlets.  T-shirts can be ordered online here.

–“Major Tom”


For the past couple of days I’ve seen reports about the “Occupy” movement reaching Harvard — how hundreds of protesters stormed the gates of Harvard Yard Wednesday night, how they were rebuffed by security forces who sealed off the Yard to everyone not possessing a Harvard i.d., but how the protesters with Harvard i.d.s eventually managed to erect a “tent city” next to the John Harvard statue in the Yard.

For example, Boston Herald stories here and here; extensive Harvard Crimson coverage herehere, here, here, herehere, and here; and coverage in outlets as diverse as CBS, the local Fox TV, Big GovernmentSalon, Gawker, Adbusters, the Atlantic Wire, the Boston Globe, Wicked Local, BostInnovation, and The Stir.

The people busily occupying space in Harvard Yard as part of the nationwide “Occupy” movement — given the language they’ve chosen for their movement, is it uncharitable to call them “space occupants”? — even have their own website, It’s registered to “Comms OH,” whoever/whatever that is.

My interest was particularly piqued by conservative columnist Howie Carr’s piece in this morning’s Boston Herald entitled, “Occupy Someone Else’s Yard,” which began:

So let me get this straight: Harvard students are “occupying” the Yard to protest how the 1 percent keep the 99 percent in economic servitude. But the Crimson protest against capitalist oppression is by invitation only, and all the gates on campus have been locked, chained and padlocked to keep out the real 99 percent?

Occupy Harvard? It’s more like Occupy Gated Community.

The pampered pukes are saying their faux encampment of Eddie Bauer and L.L. Bean tents is “symbolic.” It sure is — symbolic of the breathtaking hypocrisy of these limousine liberals.

They’re in solidarity with the rabble . . . as long as the riff-raff stay on their side of the wall.
* * *
Occupy Harvard Yard is like when you were 6 years old, and you went camping . . . in your backyard, with your father. If you got scared, you could just run back in the house to get a hug from Mommy.

On the first morning of the encampment, the Harvard Crimson did a photo essay on how things were going on Day 1, which documented about half a dozen protesters on site at around 9 a.m. (here).  So I wondered, how are things going on Day 3? Especially on a day on which classes were not in session, so the members of the movement are able to devote their full attention to the encampment, would a larger contingent of space occupants be on site? Perhaps dozens of space occupants?

As one of the fortunate few in possession of a Harvard i.d. (perhaps only 35,000 of the world’s 7 billion people have one, making me and the space occupants part of a privileged 0.000005%), I’m one of a handful of photobloggers in a position to report on the situation, so I felt a special obligation to do something to provide an update, especially given that Harvard’s current security policy bars members of the mainstream press from access to the Yard.

So what did I find?  Nothing!  When I arrived shortly before 10 a.m., I found no space occupants at all.  On site were just 2 photographers (including myself) and 2 Harvard University police officers, as you can see from my first photo (the other photographer is on the far right; the cops are in yellow jackets just beyond him — click on photo for full-screen version):










I then walked around the entire encampment, clockwise, documenting its condition and the curious absence of space occupants.


Here’s photo 2:










Here’s photo 3:










Photo 4:










Photo 5:












Photo 6:











Photo 7:












Photo 8:









Here’s a long-distance shot, from the west side of the Yard, facing the John Harvard statue:










Finally, to show there were no space occupants lurking at the edges of the Yard, here are a couple of 180-degree panoramic shots, the first from north of the tents facing south, and the second from west of the tents facing east (again, for a full-screen view, click on the photo):







Final score at “Occupy Harvard,” Day 3:  2 photographers, 2 cops, 0 occupants.

Update (11/13, 4 p.m.) — Much appreciation to Prof. Glenn Reynolds for the “Insta-launch“!  And thanks to those who’ve taken the time to comment.

–“Major Tom”