Harvard University’s decision to close Harvard Yard to anyone without valid student ID, designed both to restrict and to protect the Occupy Harvard demonstrators inside the yard, turns that protest into something of a punch line. By restricting access to the yard, Harvard established an exclusive tent city that stands for the antithesis of protest solidarity: A movement that is supposed to highlight the inequities between the 99 percent and the 1 percent feels like it has more in common with the pampered and prosperous 1 percent.
Student protesters didn’t want that outcome. Administrators, citing security concerns, imposed a 24/7 restriction to keep barbarians - otherwise known as people without any Harvard affiliation - at the gates. This is an inconvenience to anyone who uses the yard as a shortcut, as well as a barrier to tourists and prospective students.
After a ragged start, the Occupy Harvard movement is claiming success in the form of more faculty support. The administration also agreed to contract demands of Harvard custodians after assorted Occupy Harvard events were held to express support for workers. But those triumphs don’t warrant a Harvard Yard shutdown without foreseeable end.
If Occupy Harvard wants to shed its elitist image, protesters should join up with the Occupy Boston movement in Dewey Square. If they aren’t willing to fold their tents and move on, Harvard should at least limit the shutdown of Harvard Yard to overnight hours. That would make security, rather than exclusivity, seem like the real concern.