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US: Harvard denies degrees to 13 Gaza war protesters, defying faculty vote

Ruling likely to exacerbate divisions between the Harvard Corp and some faculty, students

Graduating students hold a sign reading "There Are No Universities Left in Gaza" during the 373rd Commencement Exercises at Harvard University, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, on May 23, 2024.
Image Credit: Reuters

New York/London: Harvard University’s governing board said it’s declining to award degrees to 13 students who violated the university’s policies by participating in a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus.

The move came after 115 faculty members showed up to a meeting on Monday and voted to allow the students to graduate, even after they’d been disciplined by an administrative board, according to the Harvard Crimson. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences has about 888 voting members.

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The ruling is likely to exacerbate divisions between the Harvard Corp., led by former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, and some faculty and students. The students were found to have “violated the university’s policies by their conduct during their participation in the recent encampment in Harvard Yard,” the corporation said in a statement Wednesday.

It added that the faculty vote revisit the disciplinary proceeding nor did it restore the students to “good standing.”



Harvard Corp. has been criticised since the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, with the university struggling to combat accusations of antisemitism on campus and over its handling of former president Claudine Gay, the university’s first black president, who resigned after just months in the role.

In recent weeks it’s come under scrutiny as protesters set up an encampment on Harvard Yard, while university leadership, including interim President Alan Garber, has also faced backlash from faculty and students for disciplining activists who are demanding the univeristy disclose its financial ties to Israel and divest.

Asmer Asrar Safi, an incoming Rhodes scholar to Oxford University from Pakistan, said on X that he’s one of the students unable to graduate.

More than 1,539 degrees were awarded to Harvard College students in a ceremony on Thursday in Harvard Yard, which included a day of processions, celebration and speakers, including journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa.


Some students held up placards against the war in Gaza.

Oxford University students

British police arrested about a dozen Oxford University students and scuffled with some during a pro-Palestinian sit-in at the university premises on Thursday, the protesters said.

The Oxford Action for Palestine group (OA4P) said university authorities called in police after students began their protest at administration offices, as has been happening on campuses in Britain, the U.S. and elsewhere during the conflict in Gaza.

Thames Valley police said they were aware of the incident and would give information later.

The university had no immediate comment on Thursday’s events, though it has previously said it respects the right to freedom of expression in the form of peaceful protests.


Footage posted on social media by OA4P showed altercations between officers and students sitting in the road blockading a police van which it said was carrying detainees.

“Let them go,” the demonstrators chanted.

The protesters had been calling for the university to divest from companies with ties to Israel, which is at war with the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“It is evident the administration would rather arrest, silence, and physically assault its own students than confront its enabling of Israel’s genocide in Gaza,” the group said on X.

Speaking at the scene, Oxford politics student Kendall Gardner said police had dragged students out of the way. “We’ve been met with extreme violence and hostility,” she told Reuters.