Reclaim Harvard Law School

Condemning US Military Aggression and Rebuilding the Anti-War Movement

As students living in the United States, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the recent escalation in US military aggression across the Middle East and the rest of the world. Specifically, we condemn the grotesque and horrific use of a MOAB bomb (Massive Ordnance Air Blast), the largest non-nuclear bomb currently in existence, against the people of Afghanistan. The US dropped the 30-foot long, 21,600 pound bomb on the Nangahar province of Afghanistan on the pretext of targeting ISIS caves and tunnels. Nangahar has a strong agricultural economy and is of strategic importance on the trade route connecting Afghanistan with Pakistan. While the exact number of casualties remains unknown, the MOAB sent intense shock waves across a 2 mile radius, and all Afghans living within 30 miles of the blast would have seen the 10,000 foot mushroom cloud.

We understand the use of this munition as a form of psychological warfare meant to threaten and intimidate the peoples of the Middle East, in the context of ongoing and ever-intensifying aggression against colonized and formerly colonized peoples. We declare our commitment to building an anti-war, anti-racist, and anti-imperialist movement that can hold the US government accountable for these atrocities.

This most recent bombing follows sixteen years of US occupation and devastation in Afghanistan. This government has already murdered more than 100,000 Afghans directly through military operations, not including the number of people who have died due to the destruction of Afghan public health, education, and social services. This public infrastructure has been targeted through air strikes such as the October 2015 US attack on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, and through crippling sanctions first put into effect in 1999. As noted by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), “no poor country has ever been sanctioned the way Afghanistan has.”

This bombing also comes at a time of increased US military aggression across the Middle East. Just over the past month, the United States has launched deadly attacks in Syria and Iraq, including strikes that killed over 200 civilians in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and at least 70 civilians in a school building and a mosque near Raqqa, Syria. In addition to these direct attacks, the US army has also admitted to using depleted uranium in Syria and Iraq, even after promising not to use it. In Fallujah and Basra, the US’ extensive use of depleted uranium has caused a 1,700% increase in the rate of birth defects among children born since the 2003 invasion.

In this sense, the effects of US bombings and occupation are felt most intensely by those communities already marginalized within these societies, including women, children, and ethnic minorities. It is well-documented that wherever the US establishes military bases, a massive increase in sex-trafficking and prostitution follows. We also know that the US bombing of the Syrian airbase near Homs enabled ISIS to make advances in the area, regaining control of important oil fields in Palmyra and continuing their campaign of terror against minorities such as Alawis, Yazidis, Kurds, Shia Muslims, and Christians. While the atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government are reprehensible, the US-led destruction of Syrian infrastructure only serves to further destabilize the country and cause extreme harm to the Syrian people.

The US continues to defend its aggressions on the pretext of humanitarian intervention against offenses by Russia, the Syrian government, and ISIS. The US and its NATO allies have previously invoked the same pretext to invade Syria, Iraq and Libya, in order to win progressive approval for these invasions. In 2016, the Chilcot Commission, a UK government inquiry, unequivocally found that the NATO invasion of Iraq—ostensibly in search of weapons of mass destruction—was based on flimsy evidence. The refusal of the US to accept Syrian, Iraqi, and Libyan refugees escaping the devastation of their lands, combined with Trump’s immigration ban, further reveals the hollowness of Trump’s humanitarian claims. In fact, the US ‘War on Terror’ has always been a war on the nations and peoples who oppose Western domination of their countries’ land and resources.

Trump is now set to propose a further increase in military funding to sustain these illegal invasions in the Middle East. The US already maintains the highest levels of military expenditures in the world; tax-payer dollars line the pockets of arms corporations and send bombs to kill and maim Black and brown people across the world. The 2016 pledge of $38 billion in support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is further evidence that the US is motivated by greed and white supremacy, rather than humanitarian concerns. This diversion of crucial government funding has a debilitating impact on marginalized communities within the US by reducing funding for fair housing and basic public services such as water in Flint and education in Chicago. The same day that Trump announced an expansion of the US military budget, he slashed winter heating assistance for the poor and exploited in the US. The only people who benefit from US wars of aggression are the financial elite, such as Trump, with investments in these arms corporations. Trump himself likely reaped financial benefits from the attack in Homs since he owns stock in Raytheon, the company that built the Tomahawk missiles that were used, and whose stock value immediately increased by more than 2%.

As Harvard Law School students, we unequivocally condemn the corporate military agenda of the United States in the Middle East. We also condemn and resist Harvard Law School’s strong ties to this imperialist agenda, which is directly reflected in its recent hiring of Samantha Powers—the architect and primary cheerleader of the US destruction of Libya and full-scale invasion of Syria.

In a period of an ascendant fascist, imperialist and racist agenda, we strongly underscore the need for progressive and radical groups to connect domestic struggles here in the US with opposition to this country’s bloodthirsty foreign policy. It is incumbent upon all people of conscience to organize our communities, and to build a broad movement against our government’s invasion of the Middle East, Africa, South America, and Asia. We must continue to demand a full withdrawal of US armed forces from oppressed nations, and demand that the resources wasted on bombing and occupying communities of color abroad are instead invested in affordable housing, education, health care, and infrastructure for marginalized communities of color in the United States.

Until land and liberation! Aluta continua!

Reclaim Harvard Law, Harvard Law School Justice for Palestine, Harvard National Lawyer’s Guild

Law School Students Support HUDS Diversity Task Force / Estudiantes de Derecho Apoyan un Comité Especial de Diversidad de HUDS

Reclaim Harvard Law and the Harvard Law Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild affirm their support for the Harvard University Dining Service (HUDS) workers’ demand for a Diversity Task Force to remedy severe racial and gender-based inequality. The workers demand a task force made up of workers, union leaders, and senior Harvard management.

While HUDS workers lucky enough to work the entire year might earn $35,000, workers of color under 40 earn an average of $7,000 less than that. Similarly, women of color under 40 working for HUDS make an additional $4,000 less, for an average annual salary of about $24,000. For comparison, the living wage in Cambridge for a single parent with one child is $55,895. Furthermore, no women were among the 3 highest paying cook positions in 2015, but made up 90% of dining checkers. Dining checkers are some of the lowest paid HUDS employees and are mostly people of color. As one worker pointed out at Friday’s speak-out, you would be hard-pressed to find a Black HUDS supervisor.

The increasing cost of living, not matched by a proportionate increase in wages, has steadily reduced the standard of living for workers. Long-time residents of Cambridge and Somerville, although working at Harvard, can no longer afford to live in their neighborhoods. This hardship is compounded by the proposed changes in healthcare coverage, which will make essential services even less accessible, especially for people of color. Students at the Harvard Medical School have shown that the plan is in fact “unaffordable” under the Massachusetts Health Connector Guidelines.

These statistics indicate that low wages, discrimination, and limited access to promotions in HUDS replicate the hierarchies in our society. It is unacceptable for HUDS workers of color to commit decades of their lives to serving this institution, only to be passed over for promotions time after time. While demographic disparities across positions indicate pervasive racial and gender-based discrimination, the practical consequences mean people of color are restricted in their access to capital, and are deprived of control over their time, labor, and dignity. We believe a Diversity Task Force would put control back in the hands of those most affected, and would allow Harvard dining workers to directly address the ways that racial and gender oppression are reproduced in the workforce.

As such, we reaffirm our commitment to the HUDS Strike, and to the specific proposals of the workers. Reclaim Harvard Law and the Harvard National Lawyers Guild are in full and emphatic support of the HUDS workers’ demand for a Diversity Task Force.

In Solidarity,

Reclaim Harvard Law
Harvard NLG

Reclaim Harvard Law y el Gremio Nacional de Abogados (NLG) de Harvard Law School afirman su apoyo a los trabajadores del Harvard University Dining Service (HUDS) en su demanda para un comité especial de diversidad para corregir desigualdades raciales y de género. Los trabajadores exigen un comité especial de trabajadores, líderes del sindicato, y gerentes de la universidad.

Mientras los trabajadores de HUDS que tienen la fortuna de poder trabajar todo el año pueden alcanzar a ganar $35,000, los trabajadores de color con menos de 40 años ganan $7,000 menos como promedio. Asímismo, las mujeres de color menores de 40 años que trabajan para HUDS ganan aún $4,000 menos que eso, con un salario promedio anual de sólo $24,000. Se debe tener en cuenta que un salario adecuado para la subsistencia de una persona con un dependiente en Cambridge es de por lo menos $55,895. Además, aunque las mujeres formaban el 90% de las cajeras en el 2015, ninguna ocupaba una de las tres posiciones de cocineros mejor pagadas. Los cajeros, de hecho, ganan uno de los salarios más bajos y son principalmente personas de color. Como dijo un trabajador en el evento del viernes pasado, es difícil encontrar un supervisor en HUDS que sea una persona de color.

El aumento del costo de vida, no acompañado de un aumento proporcional de los salarios, ha reducido de manera constante el nivel de vida de los trabajadores. Los residentes de largo plazo de Cambridge y Somerville, a pesar de trabajar en Harvard, ya no pueden permitirse el lujo de vivir en sus barrios. Esta dificultad se ve agravada por los cambios propuestos en la cobertura de salud, que harán que los servicios esenciales sean aún menos accesibles, especialmente para las personas de color. Los estudiantes de la Escuela de Medicina de Harvard han demostrado que el plan es de hecho “inasequible” bajo las directrices del conector de salud de Massachusetts.

Estas estadísticas indican que los salarios bajos, la discriminación, y la falta de acceso a promociones en el trabajo reproducen las jerarquías injustas de nuestra sociedad. Es insoportable que trabajadores de color en HUDS le dediquen decadas de sus vidas a Harvard sin poder aspirar a un ascenso en el trabajo. Mientras que las disparidades demográficas en las posiciones de HUDS indican la existencia de discriminación racial y de género generalizada, las consecuencias prácticas significan que las personas de color están restringidas en su acceso al capital, y se ven privados de control sobre su tiempo, trabajo y dignidad. Creemos que un comité especial de diversidad pondría el control de nuevo en manos de los más afectados, y permitiría que los trabajadores de Harvard aborden directamente las maneras en las cuales la opresión racial y de género se reproducen en el trabajo.

Asímismo, volvemos a declarar nuestro apoyo para los trabajadores de HUDS en su huelga, y en sus propuestas específicas. Reclaim Harvard Law y el Gremio Nacional de Abogados están en solidaridad con los trabajadores en su demanda para un comité especial de diversidad.

En Solaridad,

Reclaim Harvard Law
Harvard NLG

Fees Must Fall

Dear Dean Minow and Members of the Harvard Corporation,

It has been 134 days since we presented you with our demands at the Community Meeting on December 4, 2015. Although we appreciate your efforts in effectuating symbolic change with the removal of the Royall family crest, our concerns regarding substantive institutional change at Harvard Law School have gone unaddressed. One of these concerns is the financial burden imposed on students in order to attend law school here.

The tuition at Harvard Law School (“HLS”) has been steadily increasing annually well above the rate of inflation. When the current 3Ls matriculated, tuition was $52,350. When the next crop of 1Ls start, tuition will be $59,550. HLS’ class of 2015 graduated with an average of $149,754 in debt.  Given the current trends, this figure is likely to continue increase in the years to come.

We were not the first to point out these outrageous prices (Bill Barlow, JD ‘16), nor were we the latest (Pete Davis, JD ’18). According to the Record’s latest poll, an overwhelming majority of the student body supports improving financial access and affordability for students.

The mission statement of this school is, “to educate leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice and the well-being of society.” Yet the enormous amount of debt that students must undertake in order to attend HLS is a direct obstacle to this mission.  As a matter of justice, education should be free.

The effects of HLS’ astronomical tuition fees are racially biased. Due to the legacy of centuries of white supremacy and plunder, people of color are less likely to have amassed wealth in the United States. Therefore, these fees disproportionately burden students of color, not only by creating a barrier to attending HLS, but also by constraining the career choices of those who do attend by saddling them with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.  How can Harvard Law graduates be expected to advance justice or the well-being of society when they are forced to make career decisions based on paying off this burdensome debt?

We write to demand an end to tuition at Harvard Law.  The financial aid consists of very little grant funding and pales in comparison to the model of inclusive financial access set forth by undergraduate programs across the country, including Harvard College.  The Low Income Protection Program (“LIPP”) is an attempt at humanizing a system that is fundamentally unjust. It lacks imagination and fails to adequately remove the barriers to tertiary education. It is especially not enough for students who do not have a safety net to fall back on or who have families to support.  The bottom line is that LIPP does not advance access to tertiary education and fails even to provide a bare minimum of adequate financial security.

Here is where the administration, like it has for our other demands, asks “but how would we get this done? What will we cut?” Of course, answering this is the very job we are paying extraordinary amounts of money for them to do. However, this time we cannot do their job – they will not even open the books.

As with many of the school’s other policies and practices, the secrecy of the school has hamstrung discussion of how to make improvements. For this reason, we demand transparency — inform us how you are spending our money.

Along with the elimination of tuition at HLS, we demand transparency in all the information related to the budget and the measures the administration is taking to end tuition. The information and plan of action should be clear and accessible to all current and prospective students.  We, as concerned alumni and students, refuse to remain complicit in supporting a predatory student debt industry. HLS can – and must – find other ways to replace the source of revenue that comes from tuition fees, whether by using the unrestricted endowment, sacrificing other unnecessary costs, curtailing faculty salary increases, reducing faculty salaries entirely, or a combination of these and other financial sources, Harvard Law School should be committed to creating an environment that is inclusive of students of color and students from low-income backgrounds who want to study here.  Enough is enough; fees must fall.


Update on Surveillance of Students of Color Fighting Racism in Belinda Hall

The recent incident of surveillance has only strengthened our commitment to ending racial oppression at Harvard Law School.

Aside from one cursory exchange on Friday, the police have not approached Reclaim Harvard Law for any information or evidence. Still, we have and will continue to consult counsel as the investigation progresses—a right we have been taught as law students, particularly unprotected students of color, to exercise in all dealings with the police.

With that said, second-year student Simmi Kaur explained, “We find it hard to trust the Harvard University Police Department charged with the investigation given their close relationship with the administration.” Third-year student, Sam Koplewicz added, “Not only was the administration present when the HUPD first addressed students on Friday, but they also initially misled the community about the existence of an additional recording device. If there is an investigation, it should be an independent one.”

At least one additional recording device was found subsequent to our press advisory on Friday and turned in to the administration. There were also reports that Velcro, which was used to adhere the first recorder found in Belinda Hall, was seen under desks in multiple classrooms. Yet, the administration released a statement yesterday morning stating simply that no other devices have been found.

With the administration’s integrity at issue, we quickly did our own preliminary sweep of Belinda Hall, which revealed three tables with Velcro adhesives underneath them. Then, at the request of the administration, the HUPD did a more thorough search of Belinda Hall in the afternoon and found additional instances of Velcro. Only after requests for transparency from Reclaim Harvard Law did the administration issue another statement acknowledging the second recorder and the multiple Velcro discoveries late last night.

We will not be shaken by these events and remain committed to fighting racism at our institution.

First Black Tape, Then Illegal Surveillance of Black Students – Have Things at Harvard Gone Too Far?

Cambridge, MA — Early Tuesday, April 5, four Harvard Law School students found a voice-activated recording device in Belinda Hall. The device appears to have been used to spy on a group of students on campus for several days.

According to Keaton Allen-Gessesse, a third-year student, “In this time frame, Belinda Hall hosted admitted students engaging in personal conversation, a sexual assault bystander training complete with survivor narratives, and tenants from the Greater Boston area sharing their stories of eviction.”

“Someone went out of their way to buy an expensive, sophisticated piece of equipment,” said third-year student Rena Karefa-Johnson. She added, “given the criminal nature of the act, we have spent the last few days consulting with counsel to ensure the protection of all potentially harmed parties.”

“We think that this was an intentional effort to surveil our movement,” said third-year student Bianca Harlow. “Recording oral communication without the consent of all involved parties is a violation of our community standards and Massachusetts law.”

“Surveillance as a tactic to suppress movements is not new – it has been used historically by the government, institutions, and individuals to dismantle racial justice movements by pre-empting action planning, publicly distorting internal dialogues, and chilling speech,” said second-year student Titilayo Rasaki.

Second-year student Simmi Kaur stated, “It’s a threat: no space is yours.”

Contact Information
Phone: 413-345-5194