Occupy Harvard protestors set up camp in Harvard Yard on November 9th. Within hours the campus police under orders from Harvard President Drew Faust locked down the campus turning Occupy Harvard into an exclusive gated community populated only by Harvard students.
The campus lockdown continued until December 22nd when a relaxation of the 24-hour security crackdown opened the gates a bit while school was on holiday break. The lockdown, which had students and staff showing ID cards to get on campus, severely strained Harvard University Police forcing the university to hire extra security staff from the private firm Securitas.
Although Harvard isn’t posting the actual cost of the occupation, some quick math on salaries of the campus police and the private security firm multiplied by the staffing level at the five gates with checkpoints puts the cost at around three-quarter million dollars in salaries alone since November.
Some of the university guards would already have been on duty patrolling the campus so the additional security burden may be closer to a half-million dollars instead, but still a chunk of change.
Ironically, the Occupy Harvard demonstrators, whose annual tuition cost is $52,000, found sleeping in tents on the cold hard ground not as comfortable as their dorm rooms. The Occupy Harvard site looked more like a Coleman tent showroom with its tidy rows of new identical tents than the usual ragtag Occupy encampments around the nation.
However, 100 faculty members signed a resolution in support of the protest and some of the big Wall Street recruiters cancelled visits to the campus because of Occupy Harvard. Critics have suggested a better location would have been on the yard of the Harvard Business School, outside the university gates and a more appropriate target of the Occupy movement.
After Boston Mayor Mike Menino ordered arrests of Occupy Boston demonstrators and had their belongings trashed in a dumpster the threat of a larger protest at Harvard kept the lockdown in operation.
Although many people have expressed the view that Harvard overreacted, the reality is that America’s richest school is a legitimate target for the Occupy movement given the large number of graduates who enter the financial world. Ralph Nader, a Harvard law school alum, has been sharply critical of Harvard’s single-minded devotion to big business and Harvard Business School’s close relationship with the controversial Monitor Group consulting firm adds fuel to the fire.
School officials are mum on security plans for the upcoming semester but as long as the Occupy movement is alive the campus will likely remain on lockdown status and the security costs will continue to climb.
For more information on the Monitor Group click HERE