Student unrest at Harvard: selected chronology


When students complain of neglect and abuse, Master Nathaniel Eaton faces charges of beating students, while Mistress Eaton admits to serving spoiled food, including “mackerel…with their guts in them, and goat’s dung in their hasty pudding.”  The Eatons are discharged and the students dismissed for the year.  The Founding of Harvard College (Find It @ Harvard) by Samuel Eliot Morison (232-236].


Students desert the college, protesting the administration of Harvard President Leonard Hoar (A.B. 1650).  Hoar resigned on March 15.  Harvard in the Seventeenth Century (Find It @ Harvard) by Samuel Eliot Morison (402).


Disorderly Conduct among students and Cambridge youth, involving drinking and “nightwalking” “Examination of Students for Disorderly Conduct”


Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636-1936 (Find It @ Harvard) by Samuel Eliot Morison (117) Commonplace Book of Clement Weeks includes a transcription of “The Book of Harvard,” a satirical account of the Butter Rebellion.


Tension between tutors and students leads to secret meetings, property damage and dismissals.  Records of the Faculty relating to disorders, 1768-ca. 1880s. The “rebellion tree” was located in the Holden Chapel quad.  Other significant Harvard Yard trees include “Liberty Tree,” “Class Day Tree,” and “Rebellion Elm.” The tree and its successors became a rallying site for future student protests.  General information about trees on Harvard property (Find It@ Archives) “Demise of a Tradition and a Tree” (Find It @ Harvard) by Mason Hammond. Harvard Magazine, May-June 1989: 80-81. Seniors vote to “refrain from tea” in protest of the English tea tax.  Three Centuries of Harvard (Find It @ Harvard) by Samuel Eliot Morison (133).


Students petition the Corporation for the removal of President Samuel Langdon, who resigns in August.


“Bread and Butter Rebellion.”  Students walk out of Commons protesting poor food; students suspended.


“Cabbage Rebellion.”  Students complain about quality of commons, leave, and insult faculty members.  Admonitions follow as students are accused of unapproved assembly.  Economics of Harvard (Find It @ Harvard) by Seymour E. Harris. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1970: 24   A Narrative of the conduct of the corporation of Harvard College, relative to the late disorders perpetrated by the students (Find It @ Archives). Cambridge, printed by W. Hilliard, 1807. Anti-Don Quixotism, or A vindication of the students with respect to the late occurrences in Harvard College (Find It @ Archives) by Bartholomew Bystander, 1807. The College Bell is damaged and replaced.  The Bells of Harvard College (Find It @ Archives) by Arthur Howard Nichols.


“Great Rebellion.”  More protests against commons  “Commons” The Harvard Book II:  A Series of Historical, Biographical, and Descriptive Sketches… Henry Clark and F.O. Vaille, editors. Two volumes. Cambridge: Welch, Bigelow and Company, 1875.


Fight in University Hall Commons between sophomores and freshmen.  Students punished (by flogging?) [Harris, 24]  Event is memorialized in the poem “Rebelliad,” penned by Augustus Peirce of the Class of 1820 (delivered before College Engine Club in July 1918) The Harvard Book II: 109-111


Intoxicated students parade the streets at Commencement, ending with a rally around the rebellion tree. “Great Irregularity and disorder took place yesterday being the day of valedictory.  The Class marched in procession thro’ the … streets of Cambridge, many in a state of intoxication, and conducting with gross indecency and insult as they passed the houses of some of the Officers; and in the College yard insulting the whole authority by dancing around the rebellion tree with the … of friendship and rebellion.” Faculty Records IX, 263, July 18 (Find It @ Archives)


“Great Rebellion.”  Demonstration against the expulsion of a fellow student.  In response, 43 more students, including the son of John Quincy Adams, are expelled.  The incident leads to reforms in the College Laws in 1824.  Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts (Find It @ Harvard) vol. 27, 54-112.  The Great Rebellion in Harvard College and the Resignation of President Kirkland (Find It @ Harvard) by Samuel Eliot Morison.


September.  President John Kirkland issues a printed letter giving rules for suspended students.  Papers of John Thornton Kirkland, 1788-1837 and undated (Box 1, Folder 33).Condition of the College, 1821 and 1824 (Find It @ Archives)


March.  Gunpowder explosion at evening prayers in Massachusetts Hall causes significant damage.  Several members of the freshman class dismissed or rusticated. Records of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences (Find It @ Archives) XI, 67-73.


After disorderly students are reprimanded, fellow students petition and protest.  Windows and furniture are broken and President Quincy alerts state authorities to investigate.  The majority of the Class of 1836 is expelled. Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636-1936 (Find It @ Harvard) by Samuel Eliot Morison (252-253). Rebellion at Harvard in 1834 (Find It @ Archives) by Francis Parkman. A Series of Trespasses...[statement of Faculty thereon], 1834 June 4 (Find It @ Archives). The Last Stand of the Black Flag of Rebellion: A Case Study of the Micro and Macro Causes of the 1834 Student Rebellion at Harvard University (Find It @ Archives) by Joel B. Friedman. Proceedings of the Overseers of Harvard University . . . relative to the late disturbances in that seminary (Find It @ Archives).


July – December.  Faculty vote abolishes the increasingly violent annual class football game, citing “intolerable abuse” of the freshmen by the sophomores.  Students stage a “funeral” on the Delta for the “deceased” football contest and bury the ball. Subsequent hazing, fights and demonstrations continue throughout the fall.  Records of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences (Find It @ Harvard) XV, 504 “The Death of Football and the Riot of 1860,” (Find It @ Harvard) by Hamilton Vaughn Bail, Harvard Alumni Bulletin 6 October 1933: 36-46.


“Bloody Monday.”  Freshmen and sophomores clash again, resulting in Harvard Square vandalism and 2 arrests. “Bloody Monday,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation @ Adams House.


February 12.  “Police Riot.”  Theatre-going crowd spills out onto the street following a late night show at the University Theatre on Church Street.  Believing there to be a disturbance, Cambridge police riot unit arrives.  Numerous bystanders in Harvard Square are beaten and 39 Harvard students are arrested.  Records relating to the Harvard Student Riot of 1927 (Find It @ Archives) including eyewitness accounts compiled by Stoughton Bell.  Clippings pertaining to the Riot of February 11-12, 1927 (Find It @ Archives).  Transcript of Court Proceedings, February 18-March 2, 1927 (Find It @ Archives). “Riot or Assault?,” Harvard Crimson 14 February 1927.


Memorial Hall Bell theft and subsequent unrest. “Rebellions and Riots,” Harvard A-Z , by John Bethel, Richard Hunt, and Robert Shenton, 299  “Ancient Clapper Stolen from Bell in Memorial Hall,” Harvard Crimson 13 April 1932.


May 15. “Pogo Riot.”  Restless students awaiting the delayed arrival of “Pogo” comic strip writer Walt Kelly who is scheduled to speak at Harvard on behalf of his cartoon character, disturb the peace in Harvard Square.  Several students are beaten and arrested by Cambridge police. “ ‘Silent Generation’ Rallies for ‘Pogo’ “ Harvard Crimson 2 June 2003Harvard in 1952 (Find It @ Archives).  “Looking Back 35 Years:  the ‘Possum Caused a Riot” Harvard Crimson 9 June 1987.  


May.  Diploma Riots.  Harvard changes its diploma text from Latin to English and students protest and petition to retain the Latin form of the diploma.  “As Diplomas Change from Latin to English, Students Join in Protest” Harvard Crimson 23 May 2011.  “The B.A. Diploma from A-Z,” Harvard Magazine 1 July 2001.News accounts of the "Diploma Riots" of 1961 (Find It @ Archives).


Spring.  Nascent student anti-Vietnam War writing and demonstrations.  “The Undergraduate Doth Protest “ (Find It @ Harvard) Harvard Alumni Bulletin 23 May 1964.


Spring.  Student protests against Harvard’s links to ROTC and the military during the Vietnam War and other social and political issues culminate in student occupation of University Hall in April.  Police are summoned, students are arrested, some expelled.  Harvard in 1969 (Find It @ Archives).   Harvard University Student Strike General File (Find It @ Archives). Harvard University Strike Posters Collection Inventory (Find It @ Archives). The Harvard Strike (Find It @ Harvard) by Lawrence E. Eichel. Coming Apart:  A Memoir of the Harvard Wars of 1969 (Find It @ Harvard) by Roger Rosenblatt.  Push Comes to Shove: the Escalation of Student Protest (Find It @ Harvard) by Steven Kelman.  April – May.  Rap-up. Unofficial compilation of news issued by the University News Office. November - December.  Black students protest University hiring practices with another occupation of University Hall and the Faculty Club.  Archibald Cox acts as mediator. General information by and about the Organization for Black Unity (Find It @ Archives)“Occupations, Suspensions, and a Boycott” (Find It @ Harvard) Harvard Alumni Bulletin 5 January 1970.  Establishment of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences investigative Committee of Fifteen (aka the Fainsod Committee) and resultant “Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities”   Annual Report of the President 1969/69 and 1969/70.  Progress report of the Committee of Fifteen, October 24, 1969 (Find It @ Archives)David Holmstrom Collection of the Harvard Student Movement Memorabilia, 1969-1970 (Find It @ Archives)Harvard University and the Indochina War (Find It @ Harvard) by Richard Lee Howell.


U.S. troops begin bombing in Cambodia.  Four students are killed at Kent State University in Ohio when National Guard fire on protesters. 1970 Harvard Yearbook (Find It @ Archives)“Crisis and Recovery,” Making Harvard Modern: the Rise of America's University (Find It @ Harvard) by Morton Keller and Phyllis Keller. 


Amid concerns about wages and working conditions, Harvard Medical School graduate students and clerical workers begin the process of establishing an employee union at Harvard.   Protesting entrenched system of apartheid, students call for divestment of University stock in South Africa-related companies.   Open letters to the Harvard community, 1979 (Find It @ Archives) by President Derek Bok.  Published as supplements to the Harvard University Gazette in March, April, and May 1979.  Alumnae of the Radcliffe Classes of 1953 and 1958 advocate for women tenured faculty and pay equity.  Records of the Committee for the Equality of Women at Harvard, 1975-2014 (Find It @ Harvard).


Students opposing apartheid policies continue to challenge Harvard’s investments in companies that do business in South Africa.  Activists call for full divestment.  The Corporation issues a Committee on Shareholder Responsibility report.   “Bok Speaking out on Free Speech and Divestiture” (Find It @ Harvard) Harvard Magazine November-December 1984: 75-76.   “Harvard Investments and Apartheid” (Find It @ Harvard) Harvard Magazine and May-June 1985: 76-77   “Divestiture:  A History” Harvard Crimson 5 March 1984.  “Harvard’s Divestment History” Harvard Crimson 17 February 2006. The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers is created.  Records of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, 1967-2005 (Find It @ Harvard).


Faculty Council issues Harvard University Free Speech Guidelines, intended to supplement and clarify the earlier Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities  Free speech guidelines : a report to the Faculty Council (Find It @ Archives)Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences free speech guidelines (Find It @ Archives).


Harvard/Cambridge Walk for Peace.  Weekly gathering at the John Harvard statue protests the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  Sponsored by Boston Area Returned Peace Corps volunteers.  Harvard Gazette weekly calendar.  “Group Walks Weekly for Peace” Harvard Crimson 21 October 2010


November - December.  Occupy Harvard. In sympathy with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement taking place in Boston, New York and other U.S. and European cities, students erect tents and “occupy” Harvard Yard.  The protest focuses on current economic conditions.  Occupy Harvard Collection, 2011-2012 (Find It @ Archives).


February.  Students resume “Occupy Harvard” to protest Harvard Library personnel lay-offs.  Demonstrations occur at Lamont Library. Spring-Fall.  Students support Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) in drawn-out contract negotiations with the University.  “HUCTW Stands Together in Protest of Deadlocked Negotiations” Harvard Crimson 28 September 2012“Hundreds Rally for HUCTW” Harvard Crimson 16 November 2012.  “Divest Harvard” movement continues around issues of climate change, Darfur, and labor practices.   “Harvard Students Vote 72 Percent for Fossil Fuel Divestment” The Nation 14 November 2012.