Manning Addresses Harvard Yard Encampment, Draws Groans, Laughter From FAS Faculty


Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences pressed interim Harvard Provost John F. Manning ’82 over the University’s reluctance to negotiate with pro-Palestine student activists, at one point laughing incredulously at his defensive answers, during a Tuesday FAS meeting.

Many faculty members, of the roughly 250 in attendance, expressed visible or audible dissatisfaction with both Manning’s initial statement about the University’s handling of the Harvard Yard encampment and his responses to subsequent faculty questions.

His attendance at the FAS meeting came just hours after more than 300 faculty members from across Harvard signed a letter urging Manning and interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 to negotiate with the student protesters.

Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine — the unrecognized student group organizing the encampment — demanded Garber begin discussions with the protesters over their demands by Monday at 5 p.m. The deadline passed without any outreach from the University.


During the meeting, Manning acknowledged the faculty letter, saying that he and Garber “welcome dialogue.”

However, Manning added, dialogue cannot be a result of “disruptions, demands, and ultimatums” — echoing a similar, but far less direct, statement in Garber’s Monday email to Harvard affiliates in which he threatened to place encampment participants on involuntary leaves of absence if they do not disperse.

Manning’s initial statement was met with silence. But when FAS Dean Hopi E. Hoekstra opened the floor for questions, faculty repeatedly asked why the University would not negotiate with the students and why it was unwilling to even consider divesting from Israel.

History professor Rosie Bsheer addressed a question directly to Manning. She said students and faculty members had emailed Garber to initiate dialogue, though she did not specify if these emails were in relation to the demands currently being lodged by students in the encampment.

Bsheer voiced her frustration to Manning: “We received no response.”

“I don’t think that President Garber is aware of those requests,” Manning replied, drawing several audible gasps as a wave of laughter filled the lecture hall.

One attendee exclaimed, “What?”

A University spokesperson declined to comment on whether Garber had received any such emails.

Manning, who took office as provost in March, suggested that the previous administration might have missed something last semester.

“We are looking to see if there were requests that were made in the fall,” Manning said, adding that he saw the moment as “not a question of looking back, but looking forward.”

That one drew groans from the faculty.

“Sorry you don’t like the answer, but that is the answer,” Manning affirmed.

A University spokesperson declined to comment on faculty criticisms.

Music professor Vijay Iyer, a member of Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, asked what it would take for the University to consider investigating the possibility of disclosure and divestment from Israel.

“Why isn’t a conversation about divestment on the table?” Iyer asked.

Hoekstra noted in reply that the FAS has no control over Harvard’s endowment. She pointed to Harvard leadership’s previous statements on divestment, directing attendees to The Crimson’s reporting on the town hall last week between the FAS and the University’s top brass.

“I don’t really have anything to add about the question of divestment,” she said.

History professor Kirsten A. Weld followed up on Hoekstra’s and Manning’s responses, asking if these potential missed emails — “repeated requests for dialogues” — suggested the University should reconsider its decision not to negotiate.

“What if we just don’t do that?” she asked. “Why not start a dialogue?”

Her remarks were met with cheers and sustained applause.

“The FAS does not wish to weigh in on that matter,” Hoekstra said after the noise died down.

Later in the meeting, Hoekstra departed from her prepared remarks to apologize for her reply to Weld — which she called a “glib response.”

“My job as FAS dean is to listen and to take the faculty’s voice to the president,” Hoekstra said.

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at Follow her on X @tillyrobin.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at Follow him on X @neilhshah15.