Statement of President Rudenstine 4/26

Statement of Neil L. Rudenstine
April 26, 2001

Yesterday and again today, at my initiative, one of the House Masters and a senior member of the faculty met with representatives of the students sitting in at Massachusetts Hall. Through them, I conveyed my request that the students leave the building, in order that we may resume conversations about the welfare of workers at Harvard in an environment of genuinely free and responsible discussion.

I conveyed my willingness, once the sit-in has ended, to meet directly with concerned students, as well as with workers, to hear personally from them about their strongly held views.

I conveyed my personal assurance that I and others are prepared to set in motion a structured process, in appropriate Faculty and other University forums, to give serious further attention to issues regarding the welfare of workers at Harvard.

I also conveyed my commitment that such a process, while informed by the report and recommendations of the special faculty committee that considered such matters in 1999-2000, would not be limited by them.

As of this moment - 8:00 p.m. on Thursday - the students have not decided to follow this path, although I believe it is consistent with the recent open letter that I received from the House Masters, and with similar views expressed to me by many members of the University.

Several other points should be stressed:

First, when the sit-in began, I instructed those monitoring the situation that the safety and welfare of the students, and indeed all members of the University, should be an absolutely essential concern. No efforts were made to remove the students physically from the building, and food has been available to them, along with any medical assistance that might be required.

Second, I have made clear that the occupation of a University building, and interference with the activities of other members of the University, are extremely serious actions inconsistent with the fundamental principles of an academic community.

Third, the students have been apprised of the increasing security concerns raised especially by conduct outside Massachusetts Hall. In the past few days, growing numbers of people from outside Harvard have joined in demonstrations within Harvard Yard. A few incidents, bordering on serious physical conflict, have already taken place. This escalation has deepened considerably my own concerns about the interests and welfare of all persons in Harvard Yard. Our security officers have managed this situation in highly professional way, and will continue to do so. But concern for the maintenance of safety must be reciprocal.

The students who are engaged in the sit-in have demonstrated their commitment to concerns that are important to all of us. I appreciate the nature and depth of those concerns, and share a personal commitment to the welfare of all who work at Harvard. At the same time, the path to continuing progress on such important matters is through reasoned discussion and deliberation. I myself am committed to following that path. I hope the students will join me.