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Dean Dunne Warns of ‘Disciplinary Consequences’ for Participants in Harvard Encampment

Harvard College Dean of Students Thomas Dunne watches the protest unfold early Wednesday afternoon.
Harvard College Dean of Students Thomas Dunne watches the protest unfold early Wednesday afternoon. By Julian J. Giordano
By Michelle N. Amponsah and Joyce E. Kim, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard Dean of Students Thomas Dunne said the ongoing pro-Palestine encampment in Harvard Yard is violating College policies in a Thursday email to undergraduates — the first public statement by a College administrator that directly addressed the protest.

Still, though Dunne warned that protesters could face disciplinary action, it is unclear whether administrators have taken any direct steps to discipline protesters or ask organizers to clear the Yard.

“We have been clear that the physical safety and well-being of our community is paramount, and we have taken steps to increase security,” Dunne wrote. “We are also committed to supporting free speech, including the right protest.”

“The right to protest, however, exists alongside time, place, and manner restrictions that ensure the continuity of our academic program and the rights of our community to perform the activities essential to our mission of teaching, learning, and research,” he said, adding that behavior that interferes with University functions will “not be tolerated.”

The email also states that erecting structures, tents, and tables in the Yard without authorization “is a violation of the rules.”

On Sunday, the University restricted access to Harvard Yard in apparent anticipation of protests. The signs warned of disciplinary measures against Harvard students and affiliates who bring in unauthorized structures such as tents or tables or block access to building entrances.

The encampment was constructed Wednesday early afternoon by the Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine coalition — a group of faculty, graduate, and undergraduate pro-Palestine organizations — to demand that the University divest from its institutional and financial ties to Israel’s settlements in the West Bank.

Protesters also demanded that Harvard refrain from taking disciplinary measures against pro-Palestine activists, following Monday’s suspension of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, which had been the only remaining pro-Palestine group recognized by the College.

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana observed the encampment Wednesday and Thursday morning from a distance and spoke with organizers on Thursday morning, but declined to comment on whether he was negotiating with HOOP about clearing the encampment.

Still, it is likely that he will take on a primary role engaging and negotiating with protesters, as he did during the occupation of University Hall by nine pro-Palestine students in November.

Khurana repeatedly declined to comment on the College’s response to a potential encampment or occupation on Harvard’s campus similar to those at other universities in a Tuesday interview with The Crimson.

“I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals,” he said.

Dozens of organizers slept in the encampment overnight. The group said Wednesday that they will remain in the encampment until the University meets their demands.

The encampment at Harvard comes amid a wave of similar pro-Palestine protests at campuses across the country — including Columbia University, New York University, and University of Southern California— that have resulted in hundreds of student arrests and suspensions.

At Harvard, University officials have remained mostly silent on the demonstration, though several top administrators were seen spectating from a distance.

Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote that the University is “closely monitoring the situation and are prioritizing the safety and security of the campus community” in a statement Wednesday.

Interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 said in a Monday interview that he would not rule out police response to a large-scale demonstration that violated the University’s policies, though he said it would require a “very high bar.”

The encampment remains peaceful, and Harvard campus police — who have been stationed throughout the Yard since Wednesday morning, before the encampment officially began — have yet to intervene.

—Staff writer Michelle N. Amponsah can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @mnamponsah.

—Staff writer Joyce E. Kim can be reached at Follow her on X at @joycekim324.

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