Occupy Harvard Hosts Teach-In

Over 350 people gathered in Science Center D Wednesday for Occupy Harvard’s first “teach-in,” a series of eight lectures that spanned about four and a half hours.

The teach-in drew speakers affiliated with Harvard—including the Law and Kennedy Schools—and one professor each from Boston College and New York University. The event garnered a crowd of students, Cambridge residents, and Occupy Boston members, in addition to people watching a live stream online.

The event was hosted outside of Harvard Yard’s gates to encourage people without Harvard affiliation to attend. Since Occupy Harvard erected their encampment in the Yard, Harvard administrators have restricted access inside the Yard.

One of the lecturers, Harvard History Professor John Womack Jr. ’59, conducted a short poll to determine the demographics of the audience during his lecture.

According to Womack’s poll, about a third of the audience said they were over thirty, a third said they were graduate students, and a third said they were not in school, but working for pay or unemployed. Roughly a fourth of the audience also said they were students from various universities, including Harvard.

“It was interesting to me that the audience was so mixed,” Womack wrote in an email, “I had figured it would be mostly students, Harvard students; maybe earlier in the day it was.”

Prachi Sanghavi, a Harvard graduate student, Pforzheimer House tutor, and one of the event’s organizers, stressed the importance of dialogue within the Occupy movement and said the idea of generating dialogue was one of the things that drove Occupy Harvard to create the event.

“A lot of [dialogue] has been happening on campus, formally through University sponsored events and informally in dining halls, among people who both support Occupy Harvard and not,” Sanghavi wrote in an email.

She said that the event created a situation where people could talk about those things.

“It was educational, but in an informal setting so that both the presenters and audience could interact more comfortably.”

Kennedy School Professor Richard Parker said he agreed to participate in the event because he “was invited” and not necessarily as a stand for the Occupy Harvard movement. He said that the Occupy Harvard was an “important” part of the Occupy movement as a whole and that he was “sympathetic to the goals of addressing the state of inequality.”Other professors, however, were more willing to get behind the movement.

“I agreed to talk because the questions the 99-one [percent] agitation has raised in public—equality and justice, in the USA and elsewhere—seem to me to need all the attention any sensible human adult can give them,” Womack said.

Sanghavi said that she was satisfied with the event and emphasized the eagerness of many professors to participate even though some were unable to due to conflicts. She said that they chose professors based on “people’s schedules and our own time constraints with the room.”

“This is a first baby step in a long process,” Sanghavi said. “With this, we wanted to spark dialogue by bringing people into a room where they could hear thinkers and experts speak about a range of issues related with economic and political inequalities, and most importantly, ask questions.”

—Crimson staff writer Amy Q. Friedman can be reached at afriedman@college.harvard.edu.

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