Harvard Corporation Rules Thirteen Students Cannot Graduate

Faculty of Arts and Sciences May 20 vote on protestors’ status does not confer “good standing.”

Harvard shield on red background

On Monday, during the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ meeting on students’ eligibility to receive their degrees, members voted that 13 students found by the College’s Administrative Board to have violated University policies during their pro-Palestinian encampment in Harvard Yard should be included on the list of those eligible [Corrected 4:58 p.m.: a previous version of this story incorrectly said the faculty voted that those students were in “good standing”]. That meant that the faculty voted the students should receive their degrees at the 373rd Commencement tomorrow—an action, overruling the Administrative Board, that transferred the final decision to the Harvard Corporation. The President and Fellows (the Corporation) are ultimately responsible for conferring degrees.

The Administrative Board ruling spurred new protests by the students’ supporters, including a weekend march to interim president Alan M. Garber’s home, and furious, dueling editorials and op-eds in the Crimson. Advocates of the students cite prior protest encampments, in which the University did not impose similar discipline; their critics cite the violation of Harvard rules on protests, and reports of harassing or intimidating behavior toward others during the encampment.

In a statement released this afternoon, the Corporation said that since the students are not in good standing, they therefore will not receive their degrees at Commencement. That may further fuel possible attempts during the morning exercises to protest both the Israel-Gaza war itself and the University’s response to the encampment and other campus actions. The Corporation’s statement follows:

 

In accordance with the University statutes, the President and Fellows of Harvard College are responsible for conferring degrees on students who have fulfilled degree requirements and are in good standing.

Degree candidates are recommended to the President and Fellows, collectively known as the Harvard Corporation, by the faculties at Harvard’s schools. On Monday, faculty members who attended a Faculty of Arts and Sciences meeting amended the list of candidates provided by the FAS Registrar, who certifies that students have met the requirements and are in good standing. The faculty amendment added to the list of recommended Harvard College degree recipients thirteen students who are not in good standing.

Each of these students has been found by the College’s Administrative Boardthe body established by the FAS faculty to investigate and adjudicate disciplinary matters—to have violated the University’s policies by their conduct during their participation in the recent encampment in Harvard Yard. We respect each faculty’s responsibility to determine appropriate discipline for its students. Monday’s faculty vote did not, however, revisit these disciplinary rulings, did not purport to engage in the individualized assessment of each case that would ordinarily be required to do so, and, most importantly, did not claim to restore the students to good standing.

Today, we have voted to confer 7,782 degrees to students in good standing. Because the students included as the result of Monday’s amendment are not in good standing, we cannot responsibly vote to award them degrees at this time. In coming to this determination, we note that the express provisions of the Harvard College Student Handbook state that students who are not in good standing are not eligible for degrees. We also considered the inequity of exempting a particular group of students who are not in good standing from established rules, while other seniors with similar status for matters unrelated to Monday’s faculty amendment would be unable to graduate.

We understand that the inability to graduate is consequential for students and their families. We fully support the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ stated intention to provide expedited review, at this time, of eligible requests for reconsideration or appeal. We will consider conferral of degrees promptly if, following the completion of all FAS processes, a student becomes eligible to receive a degree.

We care deeply about every member of our community—students, faculty, 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 President and Fellows of Harvard College

Follow Harvard Magazine’s coverage of this continuing story, and Commencement, at https://www.harvardmagazine.com.

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