Occupy Harvard To Protest at Commencement

Members of the Occupy Harvard movement plan to demonstrate at Commencement on Thursday in protest of the potential layoffs of Harvard University Library staff, according to a press release distributed by the movement.

Occupiers plan to gather outside the Holyoke Center before making their way into the Yard, where Commencement takes place.

The protest, which is slated to include undergraduates, graduate students, and members of the Harvard Union for Clerical and Technical Workers, comes after 65 library workers took a voluntary early retirement package following an announcement by library leadership in January that the library restructuring may include layoffs.

Although the University has not said for certain that it will lay off workers, Occupy Harvard is protesting because “administrators have never lifted their threats to cut even more jobs,” according to the press release.

Jennifer A. Sheehy-Skeffington, a graduate student in psychology and an occupier, said that the No-Layoffs-Campaign is important because a smaller staff would damage what Occupiers view as an already strained library system.

“This is important because the library workers have been threatened at a time when the library is already really suffering,” Sheehy-Skeffington said.

On the Occupy Harvard blog, Occupy leaders wrote that they organized the protest in order to bring the issue to the attention of people from across the Harvard community, including alumni and parents, “to expose the damage that has been done to the libraries already, and how much more harm further cuts would inflict.”

Skeffington added that the protest is not just about the library-specific cuts, but also about the University’s approach toward labor.

“This kind of cost-cutting, corporate approach is very disappointing,” she said.

Skeffington said that she hopes students will appreciate how cuts and restructuring could endanger the entire library system, one of the “most valuable aspects of the college.” She said that the proposed plan would mean that students would be deprived of the chance to work closely with library specialists, while more skilled library workers would be working in centralized jobs that would not take advantage of their expertise.

—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at mcook@college.harvard.edu.

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