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Updated: October 13, 2023, at 4:01 a.m.
A billboard truck drove through the streets surrounding Harvard’s campus Wednesday and Thursday, digitally displaying the names and faces of students allegedly affiliated with student groups that signed onto a controversial statement on Hamas’ attack on Israel.
Amid continued national backlash and doxxing attacks, at least nine of the original 34 co-signing Harvard student groups as of Thursday evening withdrew their signatures from the statement — originally penned by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee — that called Israel “entirely responsible” for the violence. In a later statement, the PSC wrote that it “staunchly opposes” violence against all civilians.
By Tuesday evening, at least four online sites had listed the personal information of students linked to clubs that had signed onto the statement, including full names, class years, past employment, social media profiles, photos, and hometowns.
As of Wednesday morning, at least two of those sites had been taken down for violating Google’s terms of service.
On Wednesday, in the face of student safety concerns, some of the statement’s harshest critics denounced acts of violence or intimidation against the members of the statement’s signatories. Harvard Executive Vice President Meredith L. Weenick ’90 also moved to criticize online intimidation and harassment in a Wednesday evening email to University affiliates following this article’s initial publication.
The responses followed the appearance of the billboard truck, which labeled the displayed Harvard students as “antisemites.” The display also referenced a website that listed multiple full names of students associated with organizations that had signed onto the PSC’s statement.
The truck returned to the streets surrounding campus on Thursday morning, drawing jeers from some passers-by. The stunt was sponsored by Accuracy in Media, a conservative media advocacy group.
The group sparked backlash in 2022 when it sponsored a digital billboard truck on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. The ad featured an image of Adolf Hitler raising his right arm, which they claimed was a statement about the rise of antisemitism on college campuses.
In an interview with The Crimson Thursday, Adam Guillette, the president of AIM, declined to say when the truck would leave, but he said it would “be here for some time.”
Guillette also claimed the truck was no longer displaying the names and faces of students whose groups had withdrawn their signatures from the statement.
Weenick wrote in a University-wide email Wednesday evening that Harvard “takes seriously the safety and wellbeing of every member of our community” and “does not condone or ignore intimidation.”
“We do not condone or ignore threats or acts of harassment or violence,” Weenick wrote. “Officials within our Schools have been in contact with students to ensure they are aware of resources available to them if they are concerned about their physical safety or experience an immediate threat.”
Weenick added that the Harvard University Police Department had “stepped up” its presence on campus and was “coordinating closely with local, state, and federal authorities.”
In an email to undergraduates later on Wednesday, the College’s Dean of Students Office wrote that Harvard Yard would close its gates to non-ID holders from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through Monday “out of an abundance of caution.”
“Currently HUPD reports that there is no credible threat to anyone in the campus community, but those with immediate safety concerns should contact HUPD,” the email reads.
The email also linked to information on adjusting online directory privacy settings and Harvard’s 24/7 mental health support hotline.
Harvard Hillel, the University’s Jewish center, released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that it “strongly condemns any attempts to threaten and intimidate” members of co-signatory organizations.
“We will continue to reject the PSC’s statement in the strongest terms — and demand accountability for those who signed it,” the statement reads. “But under no circumstances should that accountability extend to public intimidation of individuals.”
“Such intimidation is counterproductive to the education that needs to take place on our campus at this difficult time,” it continues.
In a statement to The Crimson on Wednesday, the PSC called on University leadership to “immediately and unequivocally condemn the harassment and intimidation of its students.”
“The truck actively threatens students safety on campus at a time when credible death threats have already forced us to postpone a solidarity vigil acknowledging all civilian victims,” the statement reads.
“It is quite literally physical threat, a heinous intimidation technique, a warning sign meant to scare ideological allies into repudiating our mission — and for the Jewish members of associations linked to our own, an unjustifiable and insulting slap in the face,” it continues. “The doxxing truck is the ugliest culmination of a campaign to silence pro-Palestinian activism that the PSC has experienced for years.”
On Wednesday, a Harvard spokesperson wrote that the College has reached out directly to impacted students and student organizations to provide support and resources. In a Tuesday statement, College spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo confirmed that authorities had been alerted of doxxing on public websites.
In a post on X, former University President Lawrence H. Summers reaffirmed his disdain for the joint statement, but he called for the doxxing to stop.
“I yield to no one in my revulsion at the statement apparently made on behalf of 30 plus @Harvard student groups. But please everybody take a deep breath,” Summers wrote. “It is a time for absolute clarity that words or deeds that threaten the safety of others in our community will not be tolerated.”
Harvard Economics professor Jason Furman ’92 shared a similar statement on X, writing that he had been contacted by a student who had been doxxed despite no longer attending Harvard or affiliating with the co-signing group.
“I am reassured by the widespread condemnation of the statement by the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Group. But I am appalled by people threatening individual students. I’m even more appalled since many of them had nothing to do with the letter,” Furman wrote.
—Staff writer J. Sellers Hill can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on X @SellersHill.
—Staff writer Nia L. Orakwue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on X @nia_orakwue.
Editor’s Note: Readers should note that premoderation has been turned on for online commenting on this article out of concerns for student safety.
—Cara J. Chang, President
—Brandon L. Kingdollar, Managing Editor
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