No more camera flashes in front of the John Harvard Statue. No more questions about the visitors center. No more crowds blocking the way to class. Since Nov. 9, the tourists of Harvard have been locked out of the Yard.
Replacing the daily hordes of visitors, student protestors have pitched a small tent city in front of University Hall. They are occupying Harvard Yard.
Yet these bold few—there are rarely more than 20 or so in the tents representing “Occupy Harvard”—have elicited a significant reaction from the Harvard University Police Department, which has quartered the Yard off and allows access only to students.
And the campus feels different. With HUPD officers no longer allowing casual visitors to enter America’s most selective university, students say that losing the daily flow of tourists has stripped the Yard of its identity as a bustling center. And for the occupiers, who say the administration’s security response is trying to turn the students against the protestors, the loss of the Yard’s most prevalent passers-by hurts their message.
A TENT CITY IN AN EMPTY YARD
For the past week and a half, students have strolled through an uncannily deserted Harvard Yard.
“The Yard feels empty now with out them,” says Connie S. Zhong ’14, who notes the absence of the large crowds that used to surround the John Harvard Statue and were led by “screaming tour guides.”
“It made Harvard, Harvard, having them around,” she adds.
While the increased security has altered the campus’ feel and frustrated some tourists, most are understanding of the University’s response.
For Alvaro Gomez, a high school senior visiting with his classmates from southern Texas, the increased security was an example of the University’s commitment to protecting its undergraduates.
“[Harvard] is secure for us students,” Gomez said.
But occupiers question whether the administration might be overreacting.
“Harvard campus is open to thousands of tourist daily, and, if there were concrete evidences of threats, I’d feel more understanding,” says Helen M. Stevens ’11, who is participating in the Occupy movement. “The tourists aren’t a threat to Harvard.”
John S. Dwyer, another member of the Occupy Harvard movement and a student at the Harvard Extension School, believes the University may be acting unfairly with the policy—in an effort to cast a negative light on the protest.
“From my time at Occupy Boston, I’m aware of the safety concerns,” Dwyer says. “But I am also aware the University might be using this to turn the people against us.”