Graduates at Harvard University stage walkout during their commencement ceremony

(MENAFN) In a dramatic display of solidarity, hundreds of graduates at Harvard University staged a walkout during their commencement ceremony, denouncing the ongoing conflict in Gaza and protesting the disqualification of students involved in earlier demonstrations. The protest was sparked by the announcement that 13 students, who had participated in a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus, would not be permitted to receive their diplomas alongside their peers.

The walkout, which took place a day after the disqualification announcement, saw groups of students chanting slogans such as “Free, free Palestine” and “Let them walk, let them walk,” in support of their barred classmates. The decision to disqualify the students came after one of Harvard’s governing boards overruled faculty members who had voted to re-invite the protesters to the commencement ceremony.

During the commencement event, student speakers took the opportunity to express their dismay over the disqualification, deviating from their prepared remarks to voice solidarity with their peers. Shruthi Kumar, one of the speakers, received applause as she condemned the suppression of freedom of speech and expression on campus, declaring, “This semester our freedom of speech and our expressions of solidarity became punishable.”

Kumar's impassioned plea resonated with the audience, prompting a standing ovation from fellow students. She directly addressed Harvard, demanding acknowledgment of the students' concerns and the restoration of their rights.

The decision by Harvard to disqualify the protesting students has sparked widespread criticism, with over 1,500 students signing a petition and nearly 500 staff and faculty members voicing their opposition. The controversy reflects a broader trend of activism on college and university campuses across the United States, where more than 2,900 individuals have been arrested or detained since April 18 in connection with pro-Palestinian protests.

The walkout and subsequent outcry underscore the deep-seated divisions and impassioned advocacy surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the ongoing debates over free speech and dissent within academic institutions.



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