Harvard Boasts in Legal Filing of Addressing Unauthorized Encampment 'Quickly.' It's Still Going Strong.

Just hours after interim president Garber issued suspension threat, Harvard's attorneys cited it in motion to dismiss anti-Semitism suit

(@HarvxrdPSC Twitter)
May 10, 2024

Harvard University interim president Alan Garber took nearly two weeks to threaten unauthorized student protesters encamped on campus with suspension. He took just hours to cite that threat in a legal filing, arguing that Harvard addressed the encampment—which remains standing today—"quickly."

Harvard's Monday filing aims to dismiss a lawsuit from Jewish students alleging the school has failed to address "severe and pervasive" anti-Semitism on campus, including through its response to the encampment. Attorneys for Garber rejected those allegations, arguing in the filing that Harvard's handling of the encampment shows the school has responded effectively to a surge of campus anti-Semitism.

"Harvard quickly initiated disciplinary proceedings against dozens of students for participating in the encampment, and Interim President Garber announced on May 6, 2024, that those 'who participate in or perpetuate its continuation will be referred for involuntary leave from their Schools,'" Harvard wrote in the filing, which was posted roughly six hours after Garber's announcement.

"Rather than proving (as Plaintiffs proclaim) that Harvard is deliberately indifferent to antisemitism on campus, these developments show the opposite," the filing says.

Kasowitz Benson Torres, the law firm behind the Jewish students' suit, questioned the timing of the filing, saying in a statement that Harvard's "words and deeds demonstrate that it cannot be trusted to fight the antisemitism that plagues its campus."

"Twelve days after pro-Hamas students started camping out in Harvard Yard, replete with antisemitic signs and chants, Harvard's interim President Alan Garber belatedly wrote in an email to the Harvard community that the 'encampment presents a significant risk to the education environment of the University,'" a spokesperson for the firm told the Washington Free Beacon.

"That same day, Harvard's lawyers filed a brief in court downplaying the virulent antisemitism Harvard has enabled, while arguing, based on that same email, that it should be trusted to fix the problem," the spokesperson went on. "The encampment is still there. Rather than shirking responsibility, Harvard should be acting to immediately dismantle the encampment and institute the kind of effective measures outlined in our lawsuit to protect Jewish students, just like it would any other targeted group."

Harvard did not respond to a request for comment.

Student protesters erected the Harvard encampment on April 24. While school officials teased disciplinary action in emails and physical notices delivered to students over subsequent days, Garber did not threaten members of the encampment with "involuntary leave" until May 6—12 days after the encampment's formation.

Days later, on May 10, Harvard began issuing suspension notices to protesters, according to the Palestine Solidarity Committee, a student group behind the encampment. Still, as of Friday afternoon, Harvard has not cleared the encampment—unlike the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania, both of which used police to arrest and remove unauthorized protesters Friday.

Students in the encampment have routinely engaged in anti-Semitic chants, including "There is only one solution, intifada revolution," and "From the sea to the river, Palestine will live forever." On April 27, students raised Palestinian flags on campus in a spot typically reserved for the American flag before chanting, "Shame," at the Harvard staff tasked with removing them.

Those within the "Harvard Liberated Zone" appear undeterred by the school's suspension notices. Student group Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine posted a May 10 encampment schedule, which includes a "rally against suspensions," a "screenprinting" session, and an "Algerian-Palestinian solidarity" teach-in.