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A sign encouraging construction workers to “Show Respect for Harvard” has been taken down following student protest. The sign was posted by Shawmut Design and Construction at the construction site on the Science Center plaza and contained both Shawmut and Harvard logos.
“When a concern was raised last week, Shawmut quickly removed the sign and will not be reposting it,” wrote Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesman Jeff Neal in an email to the Crimson.
Neal also noted that the sign “has been used by Shawmut at construction projects at Harvard and other academic campuses for years without complaint.”
The text of the sign informed workers that they are “working within an operational environment on a world famous campus,” and asked them to “please display the highest level of respect for the students, faculty, and their campus at all times.”
The sign noted that this meant no swearing, “inappropriate comments,” smoking, as well as “zero(!) tolerance for drugs and/or alcohol.” Workers were also expected to keep noise as low as possible, not park on campus, and were instructed to not enter any other campus buildings.
Sandra Y. L. Korn ’14 called the sign “ridiculous” and said that it made her uncomfortable because it was “patronizing and patriarchal” towards the construction workers.
“It sets up Harvard as some sort of exceptional place where no one can swear because they are defiling the purity of Harvard,” said Korn, a Crimson editorial editor.
Avinaash Subramaniam ’14 said that he was “shocked” by the sign and that it held workers to a different standard than Harvard students.
“There are students who drink and smoke at Harvard and the final clubs blast music late at night,” he said. “How is it any less wrong when Harvard students do drugs?”
It is “not really called for” to assume the construction workers smoke and drink, he added.
Although the University did not put up the sign, Divinity School student Hanna L. Hofheinz said it bears equal responsibility for the sign’s message.
“I think that the sign was expressive of class and social dynamics that too often are part of the Harvard ethos,” she said. “I expect more from Harvard than to allow this type of statement to be its public face.”
—Staff writer Alyza J. Sebenius can be reached at email@example.com.
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