By mid-November, many law students feel the weight of classes taking over and slowly start to drop out of activities and extra-curricular commitments to lock themselves in the library. Nevertheless, many groups on campus continue to advocate year-round. So – this week, The Record wanted to spotlight a number of different student initiatives bringing activism and advocacy to the law school campus.
Housing Justice Canvassing
I have written in the past about the incredible work happening at City Life around housing justice. However, City Life does not work alone – in fact, the way many people become aware about the community organization, the housing movement, and even about their own home’s foreclosure is through a student group known as “Project No One Leaves”.
Project No One Leaves’ mission is to empower citizens living in foreclosed properties to protect their homes and communities through grassroots organizing, legal education, and civic engagement. The project has a unique relationship with City Life, making their dual organizing and legal protection model possible. The Harvard chapter of Project No One Leaves works in the Greater Boston Area as the “shield,” by informing tenants and former homeowners of their rights, working with legal services lawyers to fight post-foreclosure evictions, and partnering with Boston Community Capital to help former homeowners buy back their homes. The City Life movement then serves as the “sword,” organizing protests and blockades to stop evictions and using people power to put pressure on banks to halt foreclosures, negotiate with homeowners regarding potential buybacks, modifications, and principal reduction, and thus allowing people to stay in their homes.
Project No One Leaves canvasses homes throughout the Greater Boston Area to inform individuals about their rights and the status of their home every Saturday morning from 10:00 am to 1:30 pm.
The law school’s student labor group has re-established itself under the name of the Labor & Employment Action Project and is mobilizing to support a range of labor movements, including the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights before the Massachusetts legislature. There are also a number of other labor projects occurring across the Harvard campus working on labor issues affecting workers in Cambridge and Boston.
This Thursday at 5pm in front of the Holyoke Center, labor groups across campus will be rallying for workers at the Harvard-owned DoubleTree Hotel in Allston’s right to a fair process to decide on unionization. Workers at the hotel have complained of extreme overwork and an inability to pay for the company health insurance plan.
Advocating for Prisoner Rights
Students in the Prison Legal Assistance Project represent inmates in Massachusetts’s state prisons. Student attorneys argue on behalf of the prisoner in disciplinary and parole hearings, and visit state prisons to interview inmates in prison and cross-examine guards. The Prison Legal Assistance Project also advocates against mass incarceration, prisoner disenfranchisement and solitary confinement.
Divest Harvard is a group of students who organize to call on Harvard University to divest its endowment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies. Last spring, the HLS Divest Harvard group campaigned for a student body referendum on the issue. The student body voted overwhelmingly to support divestment, with over 67% of voters supporting fossil fuel divestment. Divest Harvard believes that with climate change poised to wreak ever more destructive havoc on our planet, it’s time for the University to stop supporting fossil fuel companies through its investments and to recognize that it’s wrong to profit from wrecking the climate. The group continues to spread awareness about the benefits of a divestment strategy and to build more support for the Divest Harvard movement.