Harvard Speaker Veers Off-Script at Commencement

As the 'Harvard Crimson' reports more than 1K exited commencement in protest
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2024 12:31 PM CDT
Harvard Students Walk Out of Commencement in Droves
Graduating students chant as they depart commencement in protest to the 13 graduating seniors who were not allowed to participate due to protest activities, in Harvard Yard during commencement at Harvard University, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Cambridge, Mass.   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

As degrees were handed out to 9,262 Harvard graduates on Thursday, more than 1,000 people exited the commencement while chanting "Free, Free Palestine" and "Let them walk," the Harvard Crimson reports. The latter was in reference to 13 Harvard seniors who were told on Wednesday that they would not receive their diplomas due to their participation in a protest encampment, reports the AP. Per the Crimson, the chanting continued for the remainder of the ceremony but "administrators continued the conferral as usual" and interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber "looked unfazed."

Student speaker Shruthi Kumar, who had been chosen to give the English address, went off script with her own criticism of the university. In what the Crimson terms a "dramatic moment," Kumar pulled a piece of paper from the sleeve of her gown that held off-script remarks, reports the Daily Beast. She said in part:

  • "As I stand here today, I must take a moment to recognize my peers—the 13 undergraduates in the class of 2024 that will not graduate today. I am deeply disappointed by the intolerance for freedom of speech and their right to civil disobedience on campus. The students have spoken. The faculty have spoken. Harvard, do you hear us? Harvard, do you hear us?" She received a standing ovation.
(More Harvard stories.)

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