Faculty Members Sign Public Letter Urging President Faust to Open Gates to the Yard

Professors hope to increase undergraduate support for Occupy Harvard

Occupy Harvard is gaining support among faculty members as the movement enters its third week.

Almost 30 faculty members in four departments at Harvard signed an open letter last week calling for University President Drew G. Faust to open the gates in Harvard Yard.

“We do not share the perception that the Occupy movement constitutes a threat to Harvard,” the letter states. “To the contrary, we are in sympathy with protests against increasing inequality in the United States and believe that Harvard should welcome discussions of the issue.”

The letter described the move to close the yard as “inconsistent with the University’s commitments to open inquiry and inclusiveness.”

“Closed gates are not just a nuisance; they are symbolically wrong,” said Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Francesco Erspamer.

Kirkland House Masters Tom C. Conley and Verena A. Conley, as well as faculty in the Department of Comparative Literature, the Department of Linguistics, and the Committee on Degrees in the study of Women, Gender and Sexuality signed the letter.

Many of those who signed also spent Thanksgiving with Occupy Harvard supporters, bringing traditional holiday dishes and discussing the general movement.

Some faculty members, Erspamer said, support the Occupy movement because they fear Harvard is turning into a vocational school and undermining its mission to provide a liberal arts education.

Erspamer said he worries the University is not preparing students for “civil responsibility.”

“Careerism and political apathy are dangerous for the University,” Erspamer added.

Professor Francis X. Clooney of the Harvard Divinity School and Professor Duncan Kennedy of the Law School also submitted letters to Faust, according to Prachi Sanghavi, an Occupy Harvard protester wand a student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Sanghavi proposed a petition in the movement’s early stages during a general assembly. The petition was then sent to departments asking for faculty support.

Currently 171 faculty members representing ten schools have signed the petition, supporting Occupy Harvard’s goal “to create a more just world,” as stated in the petition.

“It’s been hard because we’re sending emails to people who don’t recognize our names,” said Sanghavi. “We’re imagining that there’s much more faculty support out there.”

Kavi Bhalla, an Occupy Harvard protester and tutor in Pforzheimer House, said that the petition aimed to gain faculty support with hopes of also increasing undergraduate approval. “

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