Friday, June 14, 2024

“Solidarity is not dependent on what we know”: In Harvard graduation speech, Indian American student stands with Gaza, pro-Palestine protesters

A graduating Harvard University student went off script and sharply slammed Harvard for the university’s arbitrary action against the students protesting against Israel’s ongoing genocidal war on Gaza.

Shruthi Kumar, an Indian American from Nebraska, who was chosen to deliver the English commencement remarks for the undergraduate class, said, “As I stand here today, I must take a moment to recognize my peers—the 13 undergraduates in the class of 2024 who will not graduate today.”

13 pro-Palestine students were barred from graduating for their active involvement in campus protests, even after a majority of the university’s faculty of arts and sciences voted for the students to have their degrees conferred, according to the Harvard Crimson. The Harvard Corporation, the university’s governing body, voted on Wednesday to halt the students’ graduation.

Over 1,000 Harvard University students staged a walkout in solidarity with 13 undergraduates, soon after Shruthi’s speech.

Shruthi drew out a piece of paper containing off-script remarks hidden up the sleeve of her crimson gown and went on to say: “I am deeply disappointed by the intolerance for freedom of speech and the right to civil disobedience on campus.”

“The students have spoken. The faculty have spoken,” she added amidst widespread applause and a standing ovation.

Shruthi asked: “Harvard, do you hear us?”

“In the fall, my name and identity alongside other black and brown students at Harvard was publically targeted. For many of us, students of color, doxxing left our jobs uncertain, our safety uncertain, our well-being uncertain,” she went on.

“We are in a moment of intense division and disagreement in our community over the events in Gaza. I see pain, anxiety and unrest across campus. But, it’s now in a moment like this that the power of not knowing becomes critical. Maybe, we don’t know what it’s like to be ethnically targeted. Maybe, we don’t know what it’s like to come face to face with violence and death. But, we don’t have to know. Solidarity is not dependent on what we know. Because, not knowing is an ethical stance,” she said.

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