On Friday, October 23, HLS students organized an event in solidarity with the students in South Africa who are protesting increased university fees. Their statement is included below.
Today, we stand together with and pledge our solidarity to our fellow students in South Africa. We recognize, endorse, and adopt their resolute struggle against social injustice, inequity in access to education, and the vestiges of a discredited racial project. Rhodes Must Fall! Fees Must Fall! And justice must prevail!
We stand in solidarity with our fellow students in South Africa who are drawing attention to the inequities that exist in access to higher education and to the continued colonization of campuses. We condemn the failure of government and university authorities to respond to student demands for dialogue and accountability. We also strongly condemn the violent abuse of police force and the instrumentalisation of the law to stifle dissent and to repress the student protests.
We reiterate the concern of the students that for the majority of South Africa’s youth, the exorbitant tuition fees act not only to rob them of an opportunity to get an education, but also to perpetuate South Africa’s long history of institutionalised social and economic disenfranchisement.
The right of, and equal access to education is the most basic engine in society’s drive to self-empowerment and authentic freedom from oppression. As the Supreme Court stated in Brown v. Board of Education, “[Education] is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship.” This is a right that must not be hindered nor encumbered by sterile arguments nor by excuses which do not advance us but rather move us farther from the social ideal of emancipation.
The legacies of colonialism and of the racist apartheid regime cannot and must not leave any one indifferent.
However, what is going on in South Africa today is not an insular debate. This is a clarion call for introspection and self-assessment for us here at Harvard Law School, an epicenter of privilege and racist legacy.
Inspired thus by the sense of urgency and bravery of our fellow students in South Africa, we have decided today to officially announce the formation of the #ROYALLMUSTFALL movement here at Harvard Law School. The legacy of Isaac Royall Jr. that continues to desecrate the walls of this institution and stains this school’s contribution to humanity must be exorcised. The official seal of Harvard Law School is a Crest of Shame. This school cannot continue to endorse an insignia that invalidates the humanity of an entire race. ROYALL MUST FALL!
A house divided against itself cannot stand. And this institution cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. If this was true for America, the same is true for Harvard. As Abraham Lincoln exhorts us “The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail — if we stand firm, we shall not fail.”
We call on our fellow students to join the movement. We invite them to complete the project of a truly free and egalitarian society that our mothers fought to uphold. We must take up the struggle that our ancestors made for our people and we will not falter in following their weighty footsteps.
History has asked much of us in our time. Much we’ve already given; much more we must be prepared to give. This is not a charge we shrink from; it’s a challenge we look forward to.
Yours in Solidarity