Harvard student says cutting down 100-year-old oak tree akin to murder, report says

A century-old tree is at the center of a bitter fight between administrators of Harvard’s Divinity School and some students –including one who says cutting down the tree is comparable to murder, The Harvard Crimson reported.

Removing the red oak is necessary to comply with a planned renovation of the Divinity School’s Andover Hall, administrators said. But not all students are on board.

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Jesse Bercowetz, a Divinity School enrollee and self-identified pagan, has likened the tree to an “elder family member.” He said cutting the tree down would be an act of murder, the report said.

Other students have criticized what they see as the administrators’ anti-democratic approach.

“I feel like they are using some of the worst aspects of institutional power to bulldoze the situation,” said Divinity School enrollee Shane H. Brodie.

School officials have countered that no alternatives were available but will continue to cultivate a “multi-faith space.”

“We’re all deeply sad about this, there is no one happy about the fact that the tree is going to have to come down,” said Divinity School Dean David N. Hempton. “We want to do the right thing for people to give proper expressions to that sadness.”

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Other administrators like Senior Advisor to Dean Patricia M. Byrne, insisted the tree was already in decline.

“If we weren’t doing the renovation, we would probably be looking at the health of this tree anyway,” Byrne said.

The renovation of Andover Hall is scheduled to begin next summer and finish around Spring 2021, The Crimson reported.

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