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Harvard University commencement met with protests after some students denied degrees

Some students walk out of Harvard commencement in protest
Some students walk out of Harvard commencement in protest 02:26

CAMBRIDGE - Harvard University's commencement was met with protests on Thursday and some graduates walked out of the ceremony, one day after it was announced that 13 students who participated in a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus would not be receiving degrees.

Supporters of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas lined up by the entrance to Harvard Yard with signs calling for an end to the war in Gaza. 

Harvard encampment participants not allowed to get degrees

Harvard's top governing board overrode faculty who said the students should be allowed to graduate. Those students are allowed to participate in commencement ceremonies, but can't get their degrees.

"In coming to this determination, we note that the express provisions of the Harvard College Student Handbook state that students who are not in good standing are not eligible for degrees," the Harvard Corporation said in a statement. 

The encampment on Harvard Yard was the last remaining tent protest in the Boston area before protesters announced it was over last week. Interim Harvard president Alan Garber said he asked for schools to quickly consider reinstating suspended students, but said disciplinary decisions were up to the individual schools.

"We understand that the inability to graduate is consequential for students and their families," the Corporation said. "We fully support the Faculty of Arts and Sciences' stated intention to provide expedited review, at this time, of eligible requests for reconsideration or appeal. We will consider conferral of degrees promptly if, following the completion of all FAS processes, a student becomes eligible to receive a degree."

Student commencement speaker addresses graduation controversy

Harvard student Shruthi Kumar, who gave the Senior English Address, used part of her speech to recognize the 13 students who were denied degrees.

"I am deeply disappointed by the intolerance for the freedom of speech and the right to civil disobedience on campus," she said. The students had spoken, the faculty had spoken. Harvard, do you hear us?"

Some graduates walked out of commencement and marched on the street in protest.

"We support these students"

"We support these students," pro-Palestinian protester Paul Shannon told WBZ-TV outside Harvard Thursday morning. "We insist that Harvard remove these penalties against them, and that Harvard take the demands of the students for divestment from companies doing business with Israel and from the Israeli government itself."

Rotem Spiegler, a Harvard graduate and Israel supporter, said that while the punishment for the students was harsh, she's glad the university stuck to its word about consequences for participating in the encampment.

"They said that they're going to be punished, they constantly said that throughout the encampment," she said. "If you say that you're going to do something, you need to do it."

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