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Harvard Yard Encampment Not Affiliated with PSC, Organizers Say

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The organizers behind a pro-Palestine encampment in Harvard Yard insisted that the demonstration was not organized by the Palestine Solidarity Committee, a clarification that protesters made amid heightened concerns about the potential for disciplinary action against the PSC and its individual members.

Instead, Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine — an unrecognized coalition of pro-Palestine student groups — is responsible for staging the encampment, according to organizers.

Students established the encampment to protest the College’s decision to suspend the PSC on Monday, after the group allegedly violated the terms of its one-month probation by organizing an unregistered protest on Friday that was co-sponsored by unrecognized student organizations.

According to an internal University document obtained by The Crimson, the PSC did not complete the terms of their probation, despite meeting with the Dean of Students Office multiple times to clarify the College’s policies around organized protests.

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Even as a suspended student organization, the PSC played a primary role in amplifying the protest, posting information about HOOP’s encampment and videos of protesters on Instagram throughout Wednesday. Many PSC members also helped organize the encampment through HOOP.

“Rally today at noon in front of Mass Hall to let Harvard know: you can suspend PSC, but you can’t suspend the movement,” the PSC posted on Instagram early Wednesday.

Still, the decision to insist the PSC was not involved in organizing the encampment is likely an effort by the group to prevent the College from taking further action against the organization.

In a statement Thursday, the PSC again reiterated that the encampment was a “collective action by the HOOP coalition” and referred The Crimson to a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts to the University objecting to the decision to suspend the group.

“The Palestine Solidarity Committee is grateful for the solidarity and initiative of HOOP, and all others who raise the call for Palestinian liberation and divestment at Harvard,” the group wrote. “As we have done all semester with the approval of the Dean of Students office, we will continue to leverage our social media to amplify actions by pro-Palestine movements on our campus and on other college campuses.”

According to an email obtained by The Crimson, the PSC is under threat of permanent expulsion if they continue activities this semester as a suspended group.

The concerns of disciplinary action also loomed large as the protest entered its second day. In a Thursday afternoon email, Dean of Students Thomas Dunne said the encampment violated Harvard policy and threatened disciplinary action against protesters.

At the start of the encampment, protest organizers called on the University to drop disciplinary action against student organizers, calling it the “weaponization of disciplinary policy.”

The encampment in the Yard, however, clearly violates several Harvard policies and was almost certainly unregistered with the College, as is required of all protests.

College Dean Rakesh Khurana defended the suspension in a Tuesday interview, citing “content-neutral” restrictions on student organizations and activism.

But it is still unclear how the University will respond to the encampment, if at all. Besides a University spokesperson telling The Crimson that Harvard officials were “monitoring the situation,” top administrators remained silent on Wednesday as the demonstration continued peacefully into the evening.

College spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo declined to comment on the future of the PSC and potential disciplinary action, citing a policy against commenting on “interactions with students or student organizations.”

The encampment’s organization also reflected that organizers were highly conscious of the potential for the University and the College to take action against the encampment’s participants.

Protesters are designated as one of four groups — red, pink, yellow, and green — according to an organizer at the encampment. While the “red team” includes volunteers willing to be arrested, the “pink team” are protesters expecting to face disciplinary action from the Harvard College Administrative Board.

Members of the “yellow team” and “green team” are responsible for lower-risk activities like acting as boundary marshals, providing supplies, and virtually coordinating the action.

While interim President Alan M. Garber ’76 said the University has a “very, very high bar” before turning to law enforcement to remove protesters, he did not rule out the possibility of police involvement in the case of “concerns about violence” or “threats to safety” in a Monday interview.

The PSC’s suspension comes in the wake of a surge of occupations and protests on university campuses.

Activists have erected encampments at a slew of universities, including Brown, Yale, Columbia, and MIT. At Yale, Columbia, New York University, and the University of Texas at Austin, students have been arrested for their involvement in the demonstrations, which in some cases have included clashes with the police.

The PSC has not been alone in pro-Palestine organizing. Many of the demonstrations this semester have been led by organizations that are unrecognized by the College including HOOP, the African and African American Resistance Organization, and Jews for Palestine — the last of which led the November occupation of University Hall.

Members from these unrecognized groups have not been exempt from disciplinary action.

Eight undergraduate students affiliated with J4P faced disciplinary hearings with the Harvard College Administrative Board after they participated in a 24-hour University Hall occupation in mid-November.

Later that month, four more undergraduates — two of whom were organizers for AFRO — faced disciplinary hearings after organizing or participating in a pro-Palestine “week of action.”

—Staff writer Madeleine A. Hung can be reached at madeleine.hung@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Azusa M. Lippit can be reached at azusa.lippit@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @azusalippit or on Threads @azusalippit.

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