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Hundreds of Affiliates Sign Petition Calling on Harvard to Better Support Black Students After Swatting Attack, Supreme Court Ruling

Harvard affiliates called on the University to better support Black students, referencing a swatting attack against four Black seniors in Leverett House last semester.
Harvard affiliates called on the University to better support Black students, referencing a swatting attack against four Black seniors in Leverett House last semester. By Julian J. Giordano
By J. Sellers Hill and Nia L. Orakwue, Crimson Staff Writers

More than 400 Harvard affiliates have signed onto a petition demanding University administrators take steps to better support Black students, citing last semester’s swatting attack against four Black students and the recent Supreme Court decision striking down race-conscious admissions.

“We demand that the University take action to address the harm caused and protect the mental, emotional, and physical safety of Black students,” the petition reads.

The petition comes nearly five months after four Black undergraduates were ordered out of their Leverett House rooms at gunpoint by Harvard University Police Department officers responding to a false 911 call.

In the week following the attack, 45 student organizations co-signed an open letter to top Harvard administrators detailing a list of criticisms and demands related to the University’s response.

Later that month, five undergraduate and three graduate student representatives attended a meeting with top University administrators, including then-President Lawrence S. Bacow, then-President-elect Claudine Gay, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, and HUPD Chief Victor A. Clay.

Though the administrators did not agree to the demands made by Black student leaders during the hour-long conversation, they pledged to meet with the students again, according to three people at the meeting.

The new petition reiterates the demands from last semester’s letter and issues new demands in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard severely curtailing affirmative action in higher education admissions.

The petition called for a University-wide statement regarding the swatting attack and an apology for Harvard’s initial response; commitment to an in-person town hall between Black students, President Claudine Gay, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, and other University leadership; and “substantial changes” to Counseling and Mental Health Service and HUPD.

The list also demanded the University “adhere to calls to atone for Harvard’s Legacy of Slavery.”

Kojo Acheampong ’26, a member of the Boston Party for Socialism and Liberation and an organizer of the petition, said the petition aims to bring attention back to issues raised during the spring semester.

“Our real strategy with it was, ‘Okay, we got people engaged, we agitated around the issues. We have to do our own organizing,’” Acheampong said. “That was a tactic.”

Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in an emailed statement that students have been invited to participate in “ongoing efforts to improve campus safety and mental health services and supports.”

“Since the spring, University representatives have continued to meet regularly with the students who submitted the initial petition, including student leaders from the Undergraduate Black Community Leaders (BCL) and Harvard Black Graduate Student Alliance (BGSA), who are actively working with administrators to plan for student gatherings with administrators this fall and spring,” Newton wrote.

“Students have also been invited to participate in ongoing efforts to improve campus safety and mental health services and supports,” he added.

Still, Acheampong said he is skeptical that the meetings alone will bring meaningful change.

“We understand that being in the room doesn’t matter, having these meetings doesn’t matter,” Acheampong said. “It’s really us and getting ourselves politically organized so we can face these issues ourselves, and demand admin change, and put pressure on them to change them.”

—Staff writer J. Sellers Hill can be reached at sellers.hill@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @SellersHill.

—Staff writer Nia L. Orakwue can be reached at nia.orakwue@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @nia_orakwue.

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