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Senior Harvard administrators did not agree to the demands of Black student leaders during an hourlong conversation Friday about the University’s response to the Leverett House “swatting” attack but pledged to meet with the students again, according to three people at the meeting.
The Friday meeting at Massachusetts Hall came one week after Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow agreed to meet with Black student leaders about the April 3 swatting attack, during which four Black undergraduates were ordered out of their rooms at gunpoint by Harvard University Police Department officers responding to a false 911 call.
Dozens of Black student organizations penned a letter to University administrators late last month with a list of demands, threatening to stage a demonstration during Visitas — the College’s admitted students weekend — if the University did not respond to the letter’s demands by then.
The open letter contained five demands, including calls for administrators to issue a University-wide statement about the “swatting” attack, host a town hall with senior Harvard leaders, and implement “proactive mental health responses” for the affected students.
Eight student representatives — five undergraduates and three graduate students — attended the meeting with top University administrators, including Bacow, President-elect Claudine Gay, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, and HUPD Chief Victor A. Clay.
Harvard Black Students Association President Angie Gabeau ’25 said in a Sunday interview that she was a “little disappointed in the fact that none of the demands were really met.”
“It was kind of more just a, ‘We’ll have another meeting to talk about it more,’” said Gabeau, a Crimson Editorial editor. “But hopefully meetings in the future will be more successful in terms of meeting that demand.”
Black Community Leaders Co-Chair Brian A. Cromwell Jr. ’23 — who helped draft the initial open letter — wrote in a statement on Sunday that “the conversation was productive.”
“The administration was receptive to our demands and acknowledged that the situation should have been handled better,” Cromwell wrote. “Though we were not able to flesh out everything within the hour long time frame I believe that the administration will continue this conversation with the Black Community.”
Waving signs and banners, more than 50 Harvard students rallied outside Mass. Hall in a demonstration of solidarity with the students inside speaking with administrators.
Prince A. Williams ’25, one of the eight student representatives who met with administrators, highlighted the importance of activism in an address to the rally’s attendees before the start of the meeting with Bacow.
“Look at what the threat of Black organization did,” said Williams, a Crimson Editorial editor. “The threat of Black organization got us a seat at the president’s table.”
After the meeting, Williams said administrators acknowledged they could have done better.
“We pressed them the whole meeting to actually come up with some material ways to address what we’ve been asking for,” Williams said. “They’re still trying to dodge us, they do what a lot of administrators do in these types of meetings, which is to say ‘We support you, we hear you.’”
“We’re looking for more than that,” he added. “We’re looking for deeper conversations.”
University spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in an emailed statement that Harvard administrators were “grateful for the important opportunity Friday to hear from and discuss the concerns raised by students.”
“As is the case in any public safety incident on campus, University and HUPD leaders are continuing to review our response and working to identify lessons to be learned and ways to improve our engagement with the community moving forward,” he wrote. “Friday’s conversation was an important part of those ongoing considerations and University leaders are committed to further opportunities for community dialogue.”
Following the conclusion of the meeting, Bacow quickly exited Mass. Hall through a side door, followed by a member of his staff. The two men left Harvard Yard through Johnston Gate and entered a waiting vehicle outside. Demonstrators noticed Bacow’s fast departure and attempted to follow him through the gate, but he entered the vehicle without interacting with the students.
Demonstrators outside recited call-and-response chants including “Black Lives Matter” and “This is what community looks like” as they marched around the building.
Student organizers also took to the steps of Mass. Hall to address the crowd, with calls of “shame” interspersed throughout their speeches.
BSA Special Events Chair Jonathan Haileselassie ’26 said in a speech at the demonstration that Harvard, “as a corporation, first and foremost will always put the pursuit of profits over the prosperity of its people.”
“Harvard would rather divest from the very food that we eat than from the police that make us feel uncomfortable at every juncture and harass our unhoused neighbors in the broader community,” he said.
HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano declined to comment on student criticisms of HUPD during the Friday rally.
—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mherszenhorn.
—Staff writer Nia L. Orakwue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @nia_orakwue.
—Staff writer Claire Yuan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @claireyuan33.
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