May 5, 2001

Harvard officials seek silence as books and megaphones clash

By The Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Harvard University, with a student occupation now in its third week and exams just days away, have banned electronic amplification in Harvard Yard.

Officials announced Saturday that rallies using electronic amplification will not be allowed in Harvard Yard starting Sunday, and urged protesters, whose Progressive Student Labor Movement is leading a fight for a "living wage" for blue-collar workers at the university, to turn the volume down.

"In balancing the rights of all students, we ask the students leaders of the PSLM to honor the request of hundreds of their peers, including those sympathetic to PSLM's cause, to reduce the noise levels in the Yard so their fellow students can study and sleep," said Harry R. Lewis, dean of Harvard College, in a letter to students.

Living wage campaigners, who have occupied Massachusetts Hall since April 18, called the university's complaints a red herring to divert attention from a campaign that has garnered international attention.

"The university is trying to use noise as a diversion to avoid talks," said Amy Offner, a member of the living wage campaign. "They're very isolated right now, they're grasping at straws."

The protesters want the university to pay all its employees at least $10.25 an hour, the same minimum wage paid by the city of Cambridge.

Throughout the sit-in protesters have been sensitive to students' needs, talking to students living in the student dormitories that surround the Yard and being responsible about noise levels, Offner said

"We're students ourselves," Offner said.

Protesters use megaphones and a sound system at their rallies, which have drawn crowds of around 1,500, Offner said. Offner would not say whether rallies were scheduled for Sunday or the coming week.

Exams begin May 14 and last about a week.

Amplified rallies will be allowed in other locations, after approval by the Dean's office, Lewis said in his letter. Officials said they have received hundreds of calls from students, and even complaints from concerned parents.

Students breaking the new rule will face disciplinary action, said Harvard University spokesman Joe Wrinn.

A recent poll in the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, found that while 53 percent of students support a $10.25 minimum wage, only 32 percent think the occupation of the administration building is justified.

Only 23 percent of students, and 44 percent of those who support the higher wage, said they would support the wage hike if it meant a tuition increase.