Mathilde M. N. Chaudron, an MIT student who is cross-registered to take Arabic at Harvard, was stopped at Johnston Gate before her 9 a.m. class on Thursday.
Johnston Gate was one of three entrances open for morning classes.
“At the gate, they didn’t say anything,” she said. “They [just] said, ‘I’m sorry, but it’s only Harvard students today."
Eventually, a security guard told her that if she knew a Harvard student, she could get in. Chaudron called Andrew H. Bellisari, a Ph.D. candidate in history, who walked over to Johnston gate to vouch for her.
But when Bellisari tried to wave his ID and guide her through, an un-uniformed man guided them to the side.
“He actually didn’t introduce himself to us, so I don’t really know who he was,” Bellisari said. “He wanted to know where we were trying to get to. He didn’t ask to see her ID, he was listening to me as the Harvard student.”
The man, HUPD Sergeant Denis Downing, eventually let Chaudron pass.
“He was like, ‘Thank you, I hope you understand.’ And we just walked away,” said Bellisari. “It’s a good thing she was white and well-dressed and wearing glasses.”
After the incident,, Chaudron was still confused about the purpose of Occupy Harvard.
“I don’t know about Harvard, but at MIT, [even] if you don’t have money, you can get in,” she said.
Like Chaudron, extension school student Robert M. R. Cunningham did not expect the roadblocks he found on his way to the yard Thursday morning.
“Have they visited Mankiw yet? Because I want to see what his face looks like when he sees this,” he said.
“I didn’t get any e-mails about this, [even though] I’m on the Activist list and the Dems list,” he explained. “I had no idea this was happening until I read it in the Crimson this morning.”
Cunningham said that because he hadn’t heard about the event before it happened, he doesn’t think that the protesters are Harvard-affiliated.
“Last time students protested, we got Canaday. I don’t want to see what will happen to the buildings,” he added.
Although sympathetic to the Occupy movement, Cunningham had no plans to join protesters in the yard.
“Being that I’m part of the one percent, [I support it] and I think I should have to pay higher taxes,” he said. “But I think it’s hypocritical if I show up because I am the one percent.”
Inside tent city, the mood was triumphant and studious.
Occupiers stationed themselves outside of their tents, textbooks in hand, chatting with reporters and curious passers-by as they studied.
About 20 tents were set up in front of University Hall. Ten were purchased with money donated by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM). According to organizers, the tents cost about $40 apiece.
“There’s obviously vast inequality within the country,” said Amanda Haziz–Ginsberg MTS ’12, a member of the Harvard International Socialist Organization and one of the organizers of Occupy Harvard. “We are no longer satisfied with the role that Harvard plays in perpetuating [it].”
“Generally, what we’re talking about is that in a lot of ways Harvard acts as a corporation, not a university,” Haziz–Ginsberg added, balancing her Arabic textbook on her knee.
At that point, Shauna L. Shames, a graduate student and a former Crimson editor, stopped by to give a donation.
“This is great, I was at the thing last night,” she said, handing Haziz-Ginsberg folded bills.
Shames said she couldn’t camp out because she’s working on her dissertation, but asked whether Occupy Harvard had an online donation link. As Shames walked away, Haziz-Ginsberg assured her they were setting one up.
For Haziz–Ginsberg, Harvard’s issues also stem from prominent faculty members such as N. Gregory Mankiw. Last week, students walked out of his introductory economics course.
“The day that we were there, he was teaching a course on income inequality and it was clear from the get-go that he was very skeptical of taxing the rich,” she said.
Harvard’s efforts to reach out to the 99 percent, Haziz–Ginsberg said, are not where they should be.
“We support a shift towards a more progressive financial aid policy at the College,” she said, but pointed out that graduate students don’t have that same level of aid. Haziz–Ginsberg conjectured that this is because Harvard graduates are expected to go on to be in the one percent.
“I think that’s a fallacy,” she added.
As of Thursday morning—a list of demands was released at the General Assembly on Friday evening—not all students are on the same page.
A Harvard sophomore who declined to give his name because of his involvement on an athletic team is among the Occupiers.
“Personally, my biggest issue is the disparity in health care,” he said, leaning against a tree and clutching his introductory Spanish textbook. His father is battling cancer.
“I’ve seen a system that at least has a social safety net,” he said. He lived in the United Kingdom for part of his life.
The sophomore said that, for him, participating in Occupy Harvard is largely a matter of standing in solidarity with the Occupy movement overall.
“We have a lot of good things to say about Harvard, but also realize it’s not perfect,” he s aid. “If we’re being asked to move, we’re in the right place.”
Meanwhile, Occupy Harvard has no plans to go home.
“I think [how long we’re here] is going to depend on the Administration’s response and what they’re willing to concede,” said Haziz–Ginsberg. “Harvard should know that we’re not going anywhere anytime soon.”
In a letter sent out to the Harvard Community Thursday afternoon, Provost Alan Garber and Executive Vice President Katie Lapp said that while they respect the right of community members to speak out as they wish, the lockdown will continue as long as tent city remains.
“Securing access to the Yard is necessary for the safety of the freshmen and others who live and work in the Yard, for the students who will be sleeping outdoors as part of the protest, and for the overall campus,” they wrote.
Outside the Yard, others were still having trouble getting where they needed to go.
Laura Von Daniels, a postdoctoral fellow in government, had just arrived from Germany with her husband, Justus. They live in Somerville, and had come to Widener to pick up his spouse’s ID.
They were stopped at the Widener Gate and turned away without an explanation for the lockdown.
“No guests, they said,” Justus said.
“Technically, he is a Harvard Spouse ID holder, he just needs to get inside,” said Laura.
“I’m not one now, but I could be in 15 minutes,” added Justus.
Laura and Justus said the denial was not a major issue, but now Justus cannot access Harvard libraries and other facilities.
“Don’t say that you’re sorry if you’re not,” Laura told the security guards as they walked away.