Student Groups Seek Support From Lady Gaga’s BTW Foundation

When the collective star power of Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra, and more special guests amasses inside Sanders Theatre for the launch of a new anti-bullying foundation on Wednesday, protesters will gather outside to ask Harvard to shine a spotlight on a long-gone group of people as well.

The rally is planned by a group of activists formed in June 2010 under the banner “Their Day in the Yard” to demand that Harvard issue degrees to seven students expelled for perceived homosexuality in 1920.

The students—two of whom committed suicide after their expulsion—were the victims of an investigation into gay activity at Harvard by a body that has come to be known as the “Secret Court” since a Crimson editor uncovered its existence in 2002.

Since then, the episode has become the focus of two plays as well as the Their Day in the Yard movement.

“We are calling for posthumous honorary degrees,” said the founder of Their Day in the Yard, who wished to remain anonymous. She noted that Harvard officials have said that posthumous degrees are reserved for the rare students who complete all their graduation requirements but die before claiming their diplomas.

“It is our understanding that honorary degree recipients do not need to have attended Harvard at all,” the movement’s founder said. “These students have been so disgraced by the University—we would like to see Harvard return some of their honor.”

The rally will start at 3 p.m., an hour before the event at which Lady Gaga will officially kick-start her new organization, the Born This Way Foundation.

The founder emphasized that although her group’s latest protest will take place outside of Lady Gaga’s event on Wednesday, the rally is not meant to protest the pop star’s visit to campus.

“We’re seeking the support of the Born This Way Foundation. We’re hoping that they urge Harvard to abolish the Secret Court and grant posthumous honorary degrees,” she said.

Sociology lecturer Kaia Stern, a supporter of the movement, said that Their Day in the Yard “loves Lady Gaga and the work that she is doing.”

—Staff writer Laya Anasu can be reached at layaanasu@college.harvard.edu.

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