Harvard board bars 13 pro-Palestine student protesters from graduating, overruling faculty

Harvard board bars 13 pro-Palestine student protesters from graduating, overruling faculty

Harvard University’s governing board rejected an effort from faculty Wednesday to allow a group of 13 students sanctioned due to their participation in pro-Palestine protests to receive their degrees and graduate.

The Harvard Corporation veto of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) decision, which The Harvard Crimson described as “unprecedented,” underlines tensions between the university’s faculty and administration in the wake of mass pro-Palestine protests that have roiled college campuses this year.

FAS voted Monday to recommend that the 13 sanctioned students be allowed to receive degrees and graduate despite their disciplinary violations, going against a decision from the university’s administrative board last week. The corporation’s veto of that faculty vote again bars the students from graduating.

“Because the students included as the result of Monday’s amendment are not in good standing,” the corporation wrote in a statement, referring to the 13 students, “we cannot responsibly vote to award them degrees at this time.”

Both the FAS approval of the list of graduates and the corporation acceptance of faculty measures are generally rubber-stamp votes, with the conflict over the student protesters upsetting a standard process.

About 115 faculty members showed up to vote Monday to allow the sanctioned students to graduate. Professor Steven Levitsky warned Tuesday in an interview with the Crimson that faculty could revolt if their vote is overturned.

“I would expect a faculty rebellion, possibly a faculty rebellion against the entire governance structure, because there’s already a fair amount of mistrust toward the Corporation, to begin with,” Levitsky said.

Harvard moved last week to suspend five students and sanction more than 20 others for their participation in a pro-Palestine campus encampment, which ended earlier this month. The group included the 13 senior students.

The corporation wrote that the impacted students may still be given degrees once their disciplinary cases go through the standard university process, dependent on outcome.

“We care deeply about every member of our community — students, facility, staff, researchers and alumni — and we have chosen a path forward that accords with our responsibilities and reaffirms a process for our students to receive prompt and fair review,” the corporation wrote.

Similar pro-Palestine campus encampments popped up at hundreds of college campuses nationwide earlier this year, as unrest over the Biden administration’s response to the Israel-Hamas war rises.

While most protests were uneventful, some led to violence with police and counterprotesters, and more than 2,000 students were arrested nationwide.

Political attention was mostly focused on Columbia University in New York, the first of the major encampments, attracting political visits from notable members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. Columbia suspended dozens of students for participation in the protests, and later called in police to violently clear the encampment after some protesters took over a campus building.

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