At 1:30 a.m. Monday morning, the Boston Police roused scores of sleeping protesters—including several Harvard students and top NASA climate scientist James E. Hansen—from their tents pitched on Boston Common, asking them to ready their identification cards.
The police issued nearly 70 citations for trespassing to the crowd, which had gathered to camp out in front of the Massachusetts State Legislature as part of The Leadership Campaign, a month-long effort encouraging sleeping in public places to draw attention to climate change. The Campaign is currently calling on Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78 to introduce a bill to power Massachusetts with 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.
“We are trespassing...and could go to jail,” said Craig S. Altemose, who coordinated the student-led campaign and is also a joint law and policy degree student at the Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School. “But it is a small price to pay for a stable climate that will last 50 to 70 generations if we do this right.”
The Boston Common “sleep-out,” the largest manifestation of the campaign’s efforts, draws over 200 students, citizens, and clergy every Sunday to rally for climate and renewable energy. Students at universities across Massachusetts have also organized smaller scale camp-outs on their own campuses, Altemose said.
But students who have attempted to set up a Harvard sleep-out have faced resistance “across the board” from the administration, putting Harvard in a “small, small minority” of Massachusetts universities, said John E. Beatty ’11 who has received citations the past two Sundays.
“[The Office for Sustainability] and the Harvard administration are well positioned to implement policies that can be role models for other schools and organizations and make changes,” Beatty said. “The frustration is they don’t seem to be willing to let us do our part.”
Dean of Student Life Suzy M. Nelson, who handles media concerns for the Office of Student Life—which Beatty visited several times to discuss the “sleep-out”—did not respond to repeated inquiries from The Crimson.
“For Harvard students, [arrest] really is a serious threat,” Beatty said. He explained that the most common Administrative Board sentence for student arrest is a mandatory six-month leave.
Beatty said he spoke to Associate Dean of the College John L. Ellison, who is also the secretary of the Administrative Board, as to whether the Ad Board would grant students an exception if arrested through the environmental protest.
“The ‘Handbook for Students’ is clear about the expectation the faculty has for student behavior and the standards of conduct expected of all Harvard College students,” said Ellison in an e-mailed statement to The Crimson in response to inquiries as to whether students who sleep-out will be granted an exception. “If a student violates those standards the Board is charged by the faculty to investigate and respond appropriately.”
—Staff writer Natasha S. Whitney can be reached at email@example.com.
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