‘Free, Free Palestine’: Harvard Graduates Stage Walkout During Commencement

Graduates from Harvard University staged a walkout Thursday during the commencement ceremony, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

Hundreds of students at Harvard University participated in a walkout during their commencement ceremony, chanting “Free, free Palestine” in protest of the university’s decision to withhold diplomas from 13 students involved in a pro-Palestinian protest encampment, according to AP. This action came a day after the university announced that these students would not receive their diplomas with their classmates due to violations of university policies during their protest, which called for a ceasefire in Gaza and for Harvard to divest from companies supporting the war.

The protest and the university’s decision ignited a campus-wide debate about free speech, civil disobedience, and the handling of political expressions. During the commencement, student speaker Shruthi Kumar described the situation as a crucial moment for campus civil rights and free speech. (RELATED: ‘Smells Of Arrogance’: Harvard Sued For Allegedly Being ‘Deliberately Indifferent’ To Antisemitism On Campus)

“This semester our freedom of speech and our expressions of solidarity became punishable,” Kumar said, AP stated. “This is about civil rights and upholding democratic principles. The students had spoken. The faculty had spoken. Harvard do you hear us?”

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 29: People walk through the gate on Harvard Yard at the Harvard University campus on June 29, 2023 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race-conscious admission policies used by Harvard and the University of North Carolina violate the Constitution, bringing an end to affirmative action in higher education. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Commencement speaker Maria Ressa, a journalist renowned for her press freedom advocacy, stressed the importance of defending personal beliefs, particularly during tough times.

“The campus protests are testing everyone in America. Protests are healthy. They shouldn’t be violent. They shouldn’t be silenced,” she said, AP reported.

The controversy at Harvard reflects a broader trend across American universities. Institutions like Northwestern and Rutgers have also faced pro-Palestinian protests and encampments, managing these situations through negotiations instead of police force, according to AP. This approach contrasts with other universities that have resorted to police interventions and arrests.