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Harvard will establish a task force to support students experiencing doxxing, harassment, and online security issues following backlash against students allegedly affiliated with a statement that held Israel “entirely responsible” for violence in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The new task force will be in operation until Nov. 3, at which point the task force will reassess its efforts to ensure that its work meets student needs, according to an email obtained by The Crimson. The message, dated Tuesday, was sent to doxxed students by Dean of Students Thomas Dunne.
“We are truly grateful for all the tremendous work that students have put forth in supporting each other through this most difficult time, and we appreciate the collaborative spirit in which students, faculty, and staff have come together to repel this repugnant assault on our community,” Dunne wrote.
Aside from serving as a single point of contact, the task force will communicate proactively with students to share available resources, ensure the coordination of services, hear student concerns and suggestions, and communicate with residential staff and other College administrators.
The formation of the task force comes more than two weeks after more than 30 student organizations drew national backlash for signing onto the controversial statement, which was penned by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee.
“Today’s events did not occur in a vacuum,” the PSC’s statement reads. “For the last two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in an open-air prison. Israeli officials promise to ‘open the gates of hell,’ and the massacres in Gaza have already commenced.”
In the weeks that followed, students have faced doxxing attacks on websites, social media, and a billboard truck displaying group members’ names and faces and describing them as “Harvard’s Leading Antisemites.”
Even as the PSC moved to state that the group “staunchly opposes” violence against all civilians, at least 10 student groups have since withdrawn their endorsements from the statement.
According to the email, the DSO will lead the task force, alongside Harvard University Information Technology, the Harvard University Police Department, Counseling and Mental Health Service, the Office of General Counsel, the Mignone Center for Career Success, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, and the Office of Undergraduate Education.
The University had begun providing doxxed students with resources prior to the creation of a formal task force. An HUIT document dated Oct. 20 provides guidance on requesting for false statements, online harassment, and personal information to be taken down. The guide also advises those doxxed to consider disabling social media accounts and to block, mute, or ignore attackers.
HUIT also allows Harvard affiliates to report online security incidents through its website.
Students earlier this month also circulated a guide for those experiencing doxxing and harassment in collaboration with conversations with Harvard administrators. The document offers additional guidance on interacting with the media and changing online visibility settings.
According to the document, Harvard’s career services center is also “reaching out to employers independently to vouch for students and to discredit the doxxed profiles.”
Harvard students, alumni, and faculty have called on University President Claudine Gay to condemn doxxing and provide greater support for affected students since online backlash began earlier this month.
On Monday, the PSC posted a letter from alumni to Harvard administration on its Instagram page. According to the PSC’s Instagram, the letter has been signed by more than 400 alumni.
“It is deplorable that, at the time of this writing, the Harvard administration has yet to meaningfully criticize or condemn the public doxxing campaigns threatening students — primarily targeting marginalized students who are Palestinian, Black, Arab, South Asian, Muslim, undocumented, and/or international,” the letter states.
The letter calls on Harvard’s administration to issue a written apology to students who have been doxxed and harassed, to condemn anti-Palestinian racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and antisemitism, to offer resources to combat doxxing, and pledge that deans will write letters of recommendation for students who have been targeted by doxxing campaigns.
Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on the contents of the letter, but he pointed to an Oct. 12 video message from Gay. In that message, Gay said Harvard “rejects the harassment or intimidation of individuals based on their beliefs.”
“Our University embraces a commitment to free expression,” Gay said in the video. “That commitment extends even to views that many of us find objectionable, even outrageous. We do not punish or sanction people for expressing such views.”
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