Activists Rouse a Dormant University

In the past, Harvard has been seen as a leader, a benchmark for other universities and educators.

But in 1998-99, the impetus for changes at Harvard has come from the outside. And in some cases students, rather than administrators, have initiated the dialogue for change.

Harvard, along with college campuses around the country, has seen a level of activism unparalleled in nearly 20 years. For Harvard in particular, 1998-99 has been a year when longstanding policies have been challenged, or even changed.

Harvard has had the opportunity to lead on several issues that also faced other universities, such as movements to use University muscle to combat sweatshops, to give students more time and space, and to help middle class families with increased financial aid.

Students and faculty have also raised issues that concerned their own lives while at the University--lack of student space, resources for victims of sexual assault and the much-maligned tenure process.


However high their hopes, this year's activists expected an uphill battle because of Harvard's reputation for conservatism.

The University is pointing to constraints that will delay results in several cases. But both sides of the negotiating table this year have gotten more than they bargained for.

In Your Face Activism

The Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM) made sure that its concerns were in the campus eye, and a thorn in the side of the administration.

Formed last year, the group participated in two major protest movements this year--the Living Wage Campaign and the anti-sweatshop movement. The two movements have two distinct negotiating styles based on different expectations of the administration.

Daniel R. Morgan '99 is one of the leaders of the Living Wage Campaign, which has demanded a $10 per hour minimum wage for all Harvard employees. He says the group expected that its goals would not be met for two to three years.

Morgan says his expectations were built around Harvard's long-term attitude toward policy change.

"In terms of Harvard, we've been around for 350 years. A 10-year study is no big deal," Morgan says, quoting Brian C. Culver, Harvard's project coordinator of engineering and utilities.

Culver may have been discussing a construction project, but Morgan says that attitude has shaped the fundamental strategy of the Living Wage Campaign.

"We're in no position to negotiate with them," Morgan says. "Our campaign has to be planned on a much longer scale."

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