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The Mapping Project

Harvard University

Harvard is a private university in Cambridge MA, which supports Israel's theft of Palestinian land and resources, US prisons, the colonial exploitation of Puerto Rico, the US military, displacement of Black and Brown working class residents from Cambridge and Boston ('gentrification'), and the subversion of democratic institutions in the city of Cambridge.

Support for Israeli colonization

Harvard currently holds an endowment of $53.2 billion. Harvard's endowment increased by $11.3 billion during the first year of the covid-19 pandemic, while everyday people were struggling to afford basic necessities. While Harvard refuses to publicly disclose how it invests 97.7% of its endowment, amongst the 2.3% of Harvard's endowment about which Harvard does disclose its investments, Harvard is already deeply implicated in multiple forms of racism and violence. A 2020 analysis of the Harvard Management Company’s public filings by the Harvard Crimson found that Harvard had over $194 million directly invested in Booking Holdings, a company which supports and normalizes Israel's settlement enterprise by listing rentals in Israel's illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Crimson investigation also found that Harvard held $294,988 worth of indirect investments (through exchange traded funds) in 20 other companies which the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights included in its 2020 list of companies with "business activities related to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory" (see: here and here). It is worth noting that the framework of International Law on which the U.N. High Commissioner's list of companies is based only addresses companies upholding Israeli's West Bank and East Jerusalem Jewish-only settlements, and does not include companies which uphold the Israeli state's broader colonial domination of Palestinians and theft of Palestinian land and resource across all of historic Palestine. Accordingly, the amount of the publicly-disclosed fraction of Harvard's endowment invested in companies upholding the Zionist project of the Israeli state undoubtably exceeds the figures detailed by the Crimson's investigation.

Harvard University also hosts a chapter of TAMID Group, a national Zionist organization which describes itself as "a comprehensive business and technology group that uses Israel as an economic lens to consult leading companies on the forefront of innovation." TAMID encourages Harvard students to what it calls "Experiential Learning Through Business in Israel," providing several opportunities for students to do so, including a TAMID Fellowship (eight-week internship in "Israel" for a business students), TAMID Consulting (in which student teams remotely solve "challenging" business problems for Israeli companies), and the TAMID Investment Fund (in which Harvard students participate in a competitions against TAMID chapters from other universities managing an investment portfolio made up of Israeli companies). By directing Harvard students to these programs, TAMID is part of the ongoing Israeli state effort to positively "brand Israel" as a "start-up nation" and a hub of "innovation" and "entrepreneurship," in an attempt to whitewash the realities of Israel's colonial subjugation of Palestinians and systematic theft of Palestinian land and resources. TAMID Group was fully funded by the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) until March 2018. Current board members of Harvard's chapter of TAMID group as listed on the chapter's website include: Jonah Moroh '20 Co-President, Nathan Hollenberg '20 Co-President, Aaron Grand '18 Director of Alumni Relations, Gabriella Siegel '20 Director of Recruitment, Bettina Edlestein '19 Director of Operations, Sofia Shreiber '20 Consulting Project Manager, Alana Steinberg '18 Consulting Project Manager, Hannah Posner '19 Consulting Project Manager.

Also active on the Harvard campus is Harvard Hillel. Harvard Hillel encourages Harvard students to enroll in multiple all-expenses paid propaganda trips to Israel. These include "Birthright & Beyond," which according to Harvard Hillel combines a "Birthright-flavored cultural experience" with a "Harvard-flavored learning experience," as well as "Harvard College Israel Trek," a widely-attended trip to Israel which occurs during Harvard's spring break trip and which specifically targets "non-Jewish members of the Harvard community." Harvard Hillel also promotes the "Israel Travel Fellowship," through which Harvard students can obtain stipends to travel to Israel. Additionally, Harvard Hillel encourages Harvard students to join three Zionist groups on campus: Coalition at Harvard for Israel and Palestine, Harvard Israel Initiative, and TAMID Group.

Support for US prisons

2019 research by the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign (HPDU) found that the publicly disclosed fraction of Harvard's $53.2 billion endowment included $3 million of investments in prisons and companies which support and profit from prisons. Given that Harvard only discloses the investment of 2.3% of its endowment, Harvard's actual investments in prisons and companies that support and profit from prisons is presumably many times larger than this $3 million figure. Harvard University also hosted Kleinfelder, a company which constructs prisons in Massachusetts, at the university's Fall 2021 career fair.

Support for the colonial exploitation of Puerto Rico

As of 2018, Harvard's endowment included a $2 billion commitment with Baupost Group, a Boston-based hedge fund led by Boston area billionaire (and Zionist mega-donor) Seth Klarman. While the Puerto Rican people were struggling to rebuild following the devastation wrought upon the island by Hurricane Maria, Baupost Group held and demanded repayment of $931 million worth of bonds which entitled Baupost to a piece of Puerto Rico's "debt." Baupost Group bought these bonds at a rate of pennies on the dollar, before insisting that the Puerto Rican people should them pay back "at par" (ie at 100 cents on the dollar). As David Dayan reported in a 2018 piece in The Intercept:

[Baupost] had been hiding $911 million in COFINA bonds, a debt instrument backed by sales tax receipts, through a shell corporation named Decagon Holdings. A disclosure last week from the COFINA bondholders said that Baupost’s investment had increased to $931 million. [Baupost CEO Seth] Klarman has consistently dismissed cries for debt cancellation for Puerto Rico, saying the island would be better off in the long run repaying its debts. Baupost bought the bonds on the cheap and would reap a huge payday if paid back at face value.

This bond debt that Baupost CEO Seth Klarman insists the island would be "better off in the long run repaying" to billionaires like himself, cannot in reality be paid by the people of Puerto Rico. Paying down the debt even partially is only possible through disastrous austerity policies which deny basic essential services to the Puerto Rican people. As longtime Puerto Rican activist Juan Gonzalez wrote in a separate 2017 piece in The Intercept: 

During the past two years, the commonwealth [or Puerto Rico's] government has sharply raised electricity and water rates. It has increased the sales tax (now a value added tax) to 11.5 percent. It has proposed ending all pensions for new workers and cutting existing benefits by an average of 10 percent. And last week, it announced the closing of 179 public schools for the coming school year. In addition, the control board has called for a $450 million cut over the next four years to the island’s 70,000-student public university.

Insisting that the Puerto Rican people go without essential services so US-based hedge funds like Baupost Group and US billionaires like Seth Klarman could become even richer was morally perverse, to say the least. Even more so given that this "debt" Puerto Rico "owes" is the direct result of the US government's over a century-long (and ongoing), violently-enforced policies of colonial plunder of the Island for the purpose of extracting of its sovereign resources to enrich the United States. Rather than Puerto Rico owing a "debt" to the United States, in reality the United States owes the Puerto Rican people reparations for over a century of theft, abuse, and violent repression.

To this day, Puerto Rico remains a "territory" (which is to say, a colony) of the United States. The United States denies the Puerto Rican people even the illusion of soverignty over the management of their own affairs and economic resources. Key decisions about the island's finances are made not by Puerto Rican representatives elected by the Puerto Rican people, but by a fiscal control board called the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMBPR), appointed by and accountable to the interests of the US government, US corporations (like Baupost), and US billionaires (like Seth Klarman). Puerto Ricans commonly refer to this US-imposed fiscal control board as "la junta de control" in a (not unfounded) reference to military "juntas" that the United States and its regional backers have violently imposed upon nations across Central and South America and the Caribbean over the past century to repress attempts by peoples in the region to engage in policies such as land reform and the independent development of their own sovereign resources.

The immorality of Klarman's insistence that Puerto Ricans should repay at par the debts Baupost Group bought up at pennies on the dollar came into even sharper focus following the devastation wrought upon the island by Hurricane Maria in 2018. In the midst of deaths estimated at 3,000 people (which Puerto Ricans insist is a drastic undercount) and damages to the island estimated at $94.4 billion, rather than forgiving Puerto Rico's (colonially-rooted) "debt" in order to allow the Puerto Rican people breathing room to rebuild and repair essential civilian infrastructure, Baupost Group remained firm in its insistence on its right to enrich itself from the COFINA bonds it had bought up at pennies on the dollar.

Following Hurricane Maria, Baupost's profiteering from Puerto Rico's debt came under increasing scrutiny from Puerto Rican and other Boston area community members. Community members demonstrated repeatedly in front of Baupost's Boston office, while Harvard University students and community allies demonstrated at Harvard to demand that Harvard divest from its nearly $2 billion worth of investment in Baupost Group. Harvard students also protested Seth Klarman's participation as a keynote speaker at an Investment Conference at Harvard Business School. Students at Yale and Cornell similarly protested to demand that Yale and Cornell divest from the hundreds of millions USD commitments each held in Baupost Group. (See also: here and here.)

Amidst this heightened negative publicity, Baupost Group chose to quietly sell off its holdings in Puerto Rico's debt in the first quarter of 2019, as reported in Bloomberg. While it is not confirmed how much Baupost made from the sale of these bonds, Bloomberg notes that Baupost likely profited from the sale, given the typical values of the COFINA bonds in 2017 when Baupost purchased them relative to the typical values of the bonds in the first quarter of 2019 when Baupost sold them off. (See also: entry on Baupost Group; and entry on Seth Klarman, and the Klarman Family Foundation.)

Support for the US military

Harvard is a member of the Pentagon-funded consortium FlexTech Alliance, announced in 2015. A DoD press release states that the aim of the FlexTech Alliance is to "accelerate military technology development cycles and focus on critical Department of Defense needs while also creating new commercial opportunities." Harvard is also one of the "participating universities" in the "Draper Scholar Program," through which Draper Labs hosts 50+ graduate-level students per year in research fellowships through which students "conduct their research under the supervision of both a university faculty advisor and a Draper technical staff supervisor in an area of mutual interest." Draper Labs is a major US Department of Defense contractor, which has received hundreds of millions to date servicing Guided Missiles and Guided Missile Subsystems for the US military (see entry on Draper Laboratory).

Massachusetts-based weapons manufacturer Raytheon BBN Technologies also cooperates directly with Harvard on Quantum Computing, and Harvard hosted Raytheon at its Fall 2021 career fair. Harvard has also hosted the US Army Reserves, US Navy, US Air Force Research Laboratory, US State Department, National Security Innovation Network, Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Newport at recent career fairs and expos for Harvard students.

Contribution to displacement ('gentrification')

Harvard University has gobbled up vast quantities of land in Cambridge, Allston (a Boston neighborhood adjacent to Cambridge), and other neighborhoods in the Boston area. In total, Harvard owns 274 parcels of land which (along with the buildings on them) are collectively valued at $10.4 billion (See: MassGIS statewide parcels dataset, 2021). Hakeem Angulu from the Harvard College Open Data Project (HODP) reports that "Based on data from Harvard’s building records, Harvard owns 9.56 percent of the land in Cambridge, 5.70 percent in Allston, and 0.27 percent in Boston. Nearly 27 million square feet, or over 600 acres, of land is owned by Harvard, much increased from its inception." Harvard leases a considerable portion of these real estate holdings to multinational tech, biotech, and pharmaceutical corporations, who are eager to move into Cambridge to establish proximity to and foster collaborations with Harvard as well as nearby MIT. (See "Land Grab University" feature on map.)

In addition to the sheer quantity of land it occupies, Harvard and the corporations to which it leases out real estate are attracting vast quantities students, researchers, and white collar workers from outside of the Boston area into Cambridge and Boston housing markets. Writing in the Harvard Political Review Harvard, Andy Wang explains that Harvard's expanding presence in Boston and Cambridge, "brings with it newfound jobs, educational opportunities, and spaces, but they are often mismatched to the interests and desires of the pre-existing community. Rather, jobs at an institution like Harvard and the immediate spaces surrounding it tend to serve a small subset of the population: well-educated and, more often than not, well-to-do." Hakeem Angulu similarly notes about these demographic changes driven by Harvard's expanding presence: "For people with relatively low and stagnant incomes, this makes Cambridge a harder city to live and do business in than Boston, and incentivizes emigration. The change in rent, in particular, is important because low-income families are likely unable to buy property, and these graphs show that rent is outpacing housing prices." (see figure below) In short, the transplant populations Harvard and the corporations to which it leases space bring into local housing markets, on average, wealthier and whiter than pre-existing residents, driving up housing, rental, and living costs and making it increasingly difficult for community members to afford to remain in the neighborhoods they have called home for years if not decades.

(Image source: here)

Hakeem Angulu and Andy Wang both also highlight that as it gobbles up land, Harvard pays only a fraction of the property taxes it should be contributing into Boston and Cambridge city budgets. Angulu explains:

In 2011, Cambridge and Boston established a program to have non-profits with more than $15 million of tax-exempt property help offset the costs of snow removal, police and fire protection, and other services. Taxes usually offset these costs, so this payment is appropriate in the situation where tax-exempt properties are plentiful. These requested payments already take into account the positive effects the non-profits have on their cities, and are thus often quite reasonable. However, since 2012, no non-profit in this category has paid the full amount requested. In fact, in 2017, Harvard University only paid 53 percent of its PILOT. The PILOT program was intended to alleviate bureaucratic tensions between these entities and the cities in which they reside, and offer an easier and more straightforward way for the non-profits to do business while having a minimal impact on the residents. Yet, Harvard continues to fall below the requested mark, and disparities in the balance fall on people in the community.

Boston and Cambridge residents endure skyrocketing housing, rental, and living costs driven by Harvard's expansionism, along with cuts to municipal funding for schools and social programs driven by Harvard's tax avoidance. All while Harvard continues to sit upon its $53 billion (and rapidly growing) endowment, which it invests in racism and colonialism at home and abroad with minimal transparency. 

Subversion of democratic institutions in Cambridge

Historically, Harvard has fought for political reforms in the city of Cambridge aimed at breaking ties between neighborhoods and city council members, including the imposition of an unelected city manager (rather than an elected mayor) as the executive power of the city (Cunningham, Bill, "Belonging", Unpublished book; Trumpbour, John, "How Harvard Rules", South End Press, 1999). Throughout Cambridge history, so-called "civic reform" movements, aimed at weakening the ability of working class residents to elect city councilors and mayors who would be more directly accountable to their interests, often had their origins at Harvard. As far back as 1911, Harvard professor Lewis J. Johnson drafted a proposal aimed at creating a system with nine at-large city councilors and an appointed city manager, with the city manager serving as the chief executive of the city with the real keys to the distribution of city resources. A similar proposal to Charter Plan E advanced in 1935 by Lewis J. Johnson's son, Chandler W. Johnson, was ultimately adopted in 1940. Plan E initiated Harvard's current system of nine at-large city councilors working alongside an appointed city manager with the city manager serving as the city's chief executive. The Plan E Association was chaired by Harvard Law School Dean Landis.

Further reading

1350 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138

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