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regular-article-logo Monday, 24 June 2024

'Let them walk': Students step out of Harvard University during commencement ceremony

The walkout was a jarring reminder of continuing unrest on the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus, on a day when more than 9,000 graduates and their families were gathered in Harvard Yard for celebration and reflection

Maya Shwayder, Jenna Russell, Anemona Hartocollis New York Published 25.05.24, 07:56 AM
Representational image

Representational image File image

Hundreds of students walked out of Harvard University’s commencement ceremony on Thursday morning as degrees were conferred, while hundreds chanted “Let them walk!”, a reference to 13 student protesters who were not allowed to graduate after a vote on Wednesday by the Harvard Corporation, the university’s governing body.

The walkout was a jarring reminder of continuing unrest on the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus, on a day when more than 9,000 graduates and their families were gathered in Harvard Yard for celebration and reflection.

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At the start of the ceremony, the university’s interim president, Alan Garber acknowledged the turmoil, and the possibility that “some among us may choose to take the liberty of expressing themselves to draw attention to events unfolding in the wider world”.

“This moment of joy coincides with moments of fear and dread, grief and anger, suffering and pain,” he said. “Elsewhere, people are experiencing the worst days of their lives.” He asked the crowd to observe a minute of silence.

Student speakers at the ceremony strongly criticised the Harvard Corporation for its vote on Wednesday to bar 13 undergraduate protesters from receiving their degrees in the wake of campus protests over the Israel-Hamas war. The move was seen by the students as a violation of an agreement made between administrators and students to clear their encampment from Harvard Yard.

The university, which has not provided details of the 13 students’ disciplinary violations, has denied having made any promises about the outcome of the proceedings. “This semester, our freedom of speech and expressions of solidarity became punishable, leaving our graduation uncertain,” undergraduate student speaker Shruthi Kumar said.

New York Times News Service

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