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On 'Heat Week' Day 3, Divest Protesters Target University Hall

Protesters temporarily blockade University Hall in demonstration's third day

By Mariel A. Klein, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: April 15, 2015, at 12:44 a.m.

Top administrators relocated again on Tuesday morning as the environmental activist group Divest Harvard continued its planned blockade of Massachusetts Hall, staged a sit-in at the headquarters of the Harvard Alumni Association, and temporarily blocked entrances to University Hall.

After blocking the doors to University Hall for four hours, Divest Harvard demonstrators pulled back at 10:15 a.m., but as of Tuesday evening, the group and its supporters still blocked the doors of Mass. Hall. About a dozen alumni demonstrators, meanwhile, were preparing to occupy the Alumni Association offices on Mt. Auburn Street for a second consecutive night.

Tuesday was the third consecutive day of protests for Divest Harvard, which began blockading Mass. Hall on Sunday and has said it will continue its planned “Heat Week” protest until Friday, April 17. Divest Harvard and its supporters are demanding that the University divest its $35.9 billion endowment from fossil fuels.

On the third day of the planned weeklong demonstration organizers are calling "Harvard Heat Week," protesters blockade University Hall early Tuesday morning.
On the third day of the planned weeklong demonstration organizers are calling "Harvard Heat Week," protesters blockade University Hall early Tuesday morning. By Alana M Steinberg

Early Tuesday morning, members of the group moved to blockade a second administrative building in Harvard Yard—University Hall, which houses the offices of top officials at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, including FAS Dean Michael D. Smith and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana.

By 6 a.m. Tuesday, about 25 Divest Harvard protesters had blocked six entrances to University Hall, and by 7 a.m. had denied entrance to two custodial workers. Other University Hall staffers approached the building before turning away.

At 10:15 a.m., Divest Harvard left the doors of University Hall, but the protesters had already forced administrators to start their days elsewhere. By 9 a.m., University President Drew G. Faust, Khurana, and Executive Vice President Katie N. Lapp had gone to work at the Smith Campus Center. Faust and Lapp usually work out of Mass. Hall and Khurana out of University Hall.

While Divest Harvard announced its plans to blockade Mass. Hall last week, the group had not publicly disclosed intentions to target other buildings. The group decided to blockade University Hall after administrators did not respond directly to their blockade of Mass. Hall on Monday, avoiding the building and finding other locations to work, according to Divest Harvard co-coordinator Talia K. Rothstein ’17.

Protesters demanding that Harvard divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies began a blockade of University Hall early Tuesday morning.
Protesters demanding that Harvard divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies began a blockade of University Hall early Tuesday morning. By Alana M Steinberg

All of the blockaders surrounding University Hall had completed civil disobedience training and were willing to risk arrest, Rothstein said.

“We want to pressure the University to act,” Divest Harvard alumni coordinator Benjamin A. Franta, a Harvard graduate student, said outside of University Hall on Tuesday. “This is our next step.”

Top University officials, barred from entering their offices, were spotted around the Yard on Tuesday morning. Dean of Student Life Stephen Lassonde, who works in University Hall, said shortly after 9:15 a.m. that he might eventually go to Starbucks to work. Associate Dean of the College Joan Rouse was spotted on her way to Au Bon Pain.

“It's an inconvenience, but it’s not stopping us from doing what we need to do,” Lassonde said during the blockade.

On Tuesday, as on previous days, protesters and police interacted amicably, with Divest Harvard member Henney Sullivan ’15 acting as a liaison between the group and officers from the Harvard University Police Department.

Meanwhile, at the Alumni Association offices on Mt. Auburn Street, 10 protesters who spent the night there—nine in the office and one in the hallway between the elevator and the office, blocked by police from joining fellow demonstrators—continued to demand a meeting with association leaders to discuss divestment on Tuesday morning, according to Bill E. McKibben ’82, the leader of the environmental group and a former Crimson president who camped out in the office Monday night.

The demonstrators had tic tacs and coffee for breakfast Tuesday morning. Harvard Police barred other protesters from delivering food to peers inside until about 9:10 a.m. but then allowed supporters to deliver some supplies, McKibben said. Thirteen protesters planned to stay at the Alumni Association on Tuesday night, according to coordinator Collin A. Rees ’12.

“We’re curious to see what exactly it takes to get a meeting with your alumni representative,” McKibben said on Tuesday morning.

The forced relocations likely inconvenienced Harvard’s top leaders. Faust spends much of days on her campus working from Mass. Hall, meeting with her senior staff and receiving a number of visitors, including dignitaries and prospective donors to Harvard’s ongoing capital campaign.

Jeff Neal, Faust’s spokesperson, declined to comment on administrators' whereabouts on Tuesday. But on Monday, Neal wrote in a statement that affected administrators were finding other places to work.

—Check and follow @thecrimson on Twitter for updates.

—Staff writers Meg P. Bernhard, Noah J. Delwiche, Theodore R. Delwiche, Andrew M. Duehren, Madeline R. Lear, and Emma K. Talkoff contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Mariel A. Klein can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @mariel_klein.

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