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While Harvard touts its expansion into the nether regions of Allston as a veritable triumph for modern education, many residents, students, and community members see the University’s trek as something more sinister: a Harvardian version of manifest destiny. To them, Harvard’s expansion asserts that if the price is right and the buyer well-endowed, then the homes, histories, and communities of poor people can be bought up, bulldozed, and replaced with shiny new classrooms, biotech labs, and commercial start-ups.
As students, we are in a unique position. We have a certain power within the University. We can either use it to our advantage, at the expense of the poor people around us, or we can use it to challenge the injustices carried out in our name and with our money. The forced relocation of hundreds of poor families is one of the most egregious of these injustices.
And this is a student issue, not just a community issue. We will not see the end of these problems if the Charlesview families are relocated out of sight of the new campus. Such treatment of the tenants is sure to generate more anger and resentment, and that will last for years to come. Is this the kind of relationship we want to establish with our neighbors in Allston?
They will see Harvard’s expansion into their neighborhood as an invasion. And if we continue to act this way, they may have a point. If Harvard does not respect the surrounding community, we cannot expect them to respect us. If Harvard creates insecurity for our neighbors, we should not expect security for our own community.
In the past, Harvard students have stepped up to the plate where Harvard’s “leaders” would not. They have stood up for the rights of the least privileged, the ones excluded from the benefits of Harvard. They have stood up with workers. They have stood up with victims of discrimination. They have stood up for oppressed people in foreign lands. It’s about time we stand up for the people in our own backyard. Because, really, it’s their backyard, not ours.