1,000+ People Walk Out Of Harvard Graduation To Protest 13 Students Not Getting Their Diplomas

The right to peaceful protest should always be upheld.

students at graduation Pixabay / Pexels

Getting a college degree is a remarkable achievement, one that opens doors and offers access to future opportunities.

Graduation is a celebration of student achievement, yet Harvard University’s 373rd commencement ceremony marked a lack of recognition of certain students.

Over 1,000 people walked out of Harvard’s graduation to protest 13 students not getting their diplomas.

On May 23, 2024, seniors at Harvard University gathered to receive their diplomas, only the event turned into something more than just a simple celebration.


The graduation ceremony became its own form of protest as over 1,000 students and faculty members walked out in solidarity with 13 students who were denied their degrees.

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The graduation walkout came after weeks of protests in support of Palestine, urging the University to divest from companies with ties to Israel.

On May 14, 2024, students dismantled “The Harvard Liberated Zone,” a pro-Palestine encampment in Harvard Yard, after three weeks of protests.

Alan Garber, the interim President of Harvard University, offered his perspective on student protests in a letter, stating that “The right to free speech, including protest and dissent, is vital to the work of the research university. But it is not unlimited.”

three students graduating George Pak / Pexels


In that same letter, Garber announced that “The continuation of the encampment presents a significant risk to the educational environment of the University. Those who participate in or perpetuate its continuation will be referred for involuntary leave from their Schools.”

According to Garber’s statement, students placed on involuntary leave were unable to sit for exams, couldn’t stay in Harvard housing, and weren’t allowed to be present on campus until they were reinstated.

WBUR reported that the Harvard Administrative Board suspended at least five students for being involved in the protests and put 20 other students on probation, among them 13 seniors set to graduate.

Student speaker Shruthi Kumar denounced Harvard's reaction to the student protests, saying, “This semester, our freedom of speech and our expressions of solidarity became punishable.”


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Student speaker Shruthi Kumar, asserted, 'I am deeply disappointed by the intolerance for freedom of speech and the right to civil disobedience on campus.' 

At graduation, President Garber was met with resounding boos as students walked out. They made their way from Harvard Yard to Epworth Church, where they held a “People’s Graduation” to honor the 13 students denied their diplomas.

student graduating Moaid Mefleh / Pexels


Much of the critique surrounding student protests and encampments in support of Palestine hinges on the idea that the students are young, naive, and misinformed.

Yet that fairly insulting belief denies students any agency over their own mindset and political perspective.

An inherent part of the learning process is deciding where you stand in the fight for justice. Protesting is a right, and it’s just as important a part of an education as going to classes and taking tests.


No matter what side of the political aisle someone falls on, the right to peaceful protest should be upheld and celebrated. After all, it’s what our democracy is built on.

Harvard’s graduation day walkout signified that students will continue to speak out without fear. They'll put their ideals first. They’ll hold true to their beliefs, whether they're recognized by the school or not, and that in itself is worthy of immense celebration. 

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.