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Letters

An Open Letter from 45 Black Student Organizations and Supporters

By Brian A. Cromwell Jr and Ebony Joy Johnson, Contributing Opinion Writers
Brian A. Cromwell Jr. ’23 is an Economics concentrator in Kirkland House and the co-Chair of the Harvard Undergraduate Black Community Leaders. Ebony Joy Johnson is a second-year Master in Divinity Studies student at the Harvard Divinity School and the President of the Harvard Black Graduate Student Alliance.

Dear Harvard University Administration,

On April 3, Harvard University Police Department officers stormed the dorm room of four Black students at approximately 4:15 a.m. in response to an unfounded phone call. We are writing this letter because we strongly believe that the University’s response to the swatting incident reflects a deep investment in protecting a false institutional image over a sincere commitment to the well-being of the Black students targeted and the Black community as a whole.

The swatting incident served as a harsh reminder of the persistent struggles Black students face within an institution that has historically upheld white supremacy and the oppression of Black people both nationally and globally. The ill-intent behind the swatting call makes poignant the ways racism both informs and amplifies the numerous adversarial situations that Black students are met with the moment they step foot on campus.

We assert that Black students should not have to live in fear of the police force being used as a weapon against them. We condemn the University’s failure to, at large, protect its Black community’s emotional and physical wellbeing in the aftermath of such trauma.

We demand that the University take action to repair the manifestations of the inaction and to ensure that the victims of the phone call are served justice, the safety of Black Harvard students is maintained, and that in future incidents, the mistakes from this situation are not repeated.

Moving forward, we call on Harvard University leadership and administration to take the following actions to support the targeted students and the broader Black student community at large:

1) We demand that University leaders issue a comprehensive, institution-wide statement across all schools addressing the swatting incident and explicitly name the significant racial impact on both the targeted Black students and the larger Black community.

2) We demand that University and HUPD officials fulfill their obligation to deliver justice for the targeted students and conduct a thorough investigation that centers their humanity rather than institutional interests.

3) We demand that Harvard University improves transparency and promotes accountability in its campus policing and HUPD operations by granting access to police reports and regular updates on ongoing investigations to those directly involved.

4) We demand that the University implement proactive mental health responses to incidents of racial trauma.

5) We demand that Harvard hold an in-person, University-wide town hall for students to speak directly to leadership, including University President Lawrence S. Bacow, President-elect Claudine Gay, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, and other top leaders to discuss Harvard’s handling of issues of racial policing and HUPD protocol.

Black students at Harvard University demand urgent action. We request an immediate meeting with the University administration and a written response to our demands by April 23, the start date of Visitas.

If this request is not met, the undersigned Black student organizations of Harvard University will stage a demonstration during Visitas. We will not wait for justice and will take all necessary measures to ensure that the University is held accountable for its inaction in addressing the ongoing racial trauma and injustices inflicted on Black students.

Brian A. Cromwell Jr. ’23 is an Economics concentrator in Kirkland House and the co-Chair of the Harvard Undergraduate Black Community Leaders. Ebony Joy Johnson is a second-year Master in Divinity Studies student at the Harvard Divinity School and the President of the Harvard Black Graduate Student Alliance.

See the complete list of 45 supporting student organizations here.

See a link to the full text of the demands here.

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