Shruthi Kumar's Reckoning: Exposing Harvard's Stance On Pro-Palestine Activism

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Harvard University's commencement ceremony took an unexpected turn when student speaker Shruthi Kumar veered off script to deliver a scathing critique of the institution's handling of student activism. Kumar, selected to deliver the English address, used her platform to condemn Harvard for punishing more than a dozen students involved in pro-Palestinian protests.

Holding a piece of paper containing her off-script remarks, Kumar called out the university's intolerance for freedom of speech and civil disobedience on campus. Her bold statements prompted a standing ovation from the crowd, including some faculty members.

Kumar's speech marked the culmination of a wave of protests at Harvard's commencement ceremonies, ignited by the university's decision to deny 13 students the opportunity to walk at graduation due to their involvement in the protests. While some silently protested in solidarity with their peers, others staged counterprotests, underscoring the deep divisions on campus.

Originally slated to deliver a more personal message about embracing change, Kumar's address instead delved into the war in Gaza, the challenges of free speech, and the importance of embracing uncertainty. Despite her initial focus on personal growth and mindfulness, Kumar's impassioned plea for justice resonated with the audience, highlighting the power of speaking truth to power even in the face of adversity.

As Kumar eloquently put it, “As I stand here today, I must take a moment to recognize my peers—the 13 undergraduates in the class of 2024 that will not graduate today,” she added, “I am deeply disappointed by the intolerance for freedom of speech and their right to civil disobedience on campus,” she continued saying, “The students have spoken. The faculty have spoken. Harvard, do you hear us?”

What echoes, “But the power of not knowing is about how you can turn that space of fear and anxiety into something that is empowering, uplifting, and exciting.”

 In deviating from the expected script, Kumar demonstrated her commitment to standing up for what she believes in, leaving a lasting impact on Harvard's commencement proceedings.