Nearly One Third of Harvard Undergrads Favor Proposals to Abolish or Defund HUPD


Roughly a third of Harvard undergraduates strongly or somewhat strongly favor proposals to abolish or defund the Harvard University Police Department, according to a September survey conducted by The Crimson.

An investigation published by The Crimson in January found a pattern of racism and sexism within the department. The investigation prompted HUPD Chief Francis D. “Bud” Riley to launch an internal review into the department. Less than a month after the review’s launch, the department reckoned with fresh criticism over allegations of police brutality leveled against one of its officers, Anthony T. Carvello.

The University also launched an independent review of HUPD after its officers drew criticism for their presence at a June protest following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police in May.

Of 877 undergraduates who filled out The Crimson’s 2020 College Survey, 35 percent favored proposals to abolish or defund HUPD, while 46.8 percent strongly or somewhat disfavored such a proposition.


Eighty-five percent of respondents who identified as very conservative reported viewing abolishing or defunding HUPD as strongly unfavorable, while 40.9 percent of very liberal respondents viewed the proposals as strongly favorable.

Nearly a quarter of respondents indicated that they attended protests against police brutality and systemic racism this summer following Floyd’s murder. While 40.5 percent of students who attended these protests indicated that they strongly favored proposals to abolish or defund HUPD, only 10 percent of students who did not attend the protests felt similarly.

A majority of respondents indicated that they support proposals for Harvard to divest its endowment from fossil fuels and companies tied to private prisons.

Divesting from fossil fuels garnered strongly or somewhat favorable views from 73.4 percent of respondents. Divesting from companies linked to private prisons won a similarly large margin of support, eliciting strongly or somewhat favorable opinions from 73.5 percent of respondents.

Opinions on divestment were split along political lines, however. Though 96.2 percent of those who indicated they are very liberal also hold favorable views of fossil fuel divestment, 75 percent of very conservative respondents view fossil fuel divestment as unfavorable. Similarly, 94.6 percent of very liberal respondents have favorable views of prison divestment, compared to the 60 percent of very conservative respondents who deem prison divestment strongly unfavorable.

On another contentious campus issue — social group sanctions — 41.2 percent of respondents reported that they strongly or somewhat favored Harvard’s decision to drop its policy penalizing students who join single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations. In contrast, 31 percent of students said they viewed the move strongly or somewhat unfavorably.

University administrators drew mixed reviews from students.

Nearly 50 percent of respondents reported viewing University President Lawrence S. Bacow strongly or somewhat favorably, while 27.5 percent view him strongly or somewhat unfavorably.

Respondents held relatively neutral views about Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda Claybaugh and University Provost Alan M. Garber, with 51.5 percent viewing Claybaugh neither favorably nor unfavorably and 57.6 percent viewing Garber neither favorably nor unfavorably.

Most respondents indicated positive views of Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, with 62.4 percent viewing him strongly or somewhat favorably and 18.4 percent viewing him strongly or somewhat unfavorably.

—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.

—Staff writer Amanda Y. Su can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @amandaysu.