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Harvard to Pause Visits From Heads of State Ahead of President Gay’s Inauguration

Harvard President Claudine Gay speaks at the Class of 2027 Convocation in Tercentenary Theatre, where she will be inaugurated at the end of the month.
Harvard President Claudine Gay speaks at the Class of 2027 Convocation in Tercentenary Theatre, where she will be inaugurated at the end of the month. By Frank S. Zhou
By Miles J. Herszenhorn and Claire Yuan, Crimson Staff Writers

During the two weeks leading up to her inauguration, Harvard University President Claudine Gay will be the only president on campus.

University Marshal Katherine G. O’Dair announced on July 18 that visits from heads of state and government will be suspended across Harvard from Sept. 16 to Sept. 30. Gay’s inauguration is scheduled to take place on Sept. 29.

In an email addressed to “Deans, senior administrators, and colleagues,” O’Dair wrote that the temporary suspension is due to “the planning and activities around the inauguration of President Claudine Gay.”

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton made O’Dair’s email available to The Crimson in response to a request for comment.

“Because of the extensive coordination, high requirements for protocol, and heightened security measures required for a head of state visit, we will not be able to host or support these visits and will be unavailable for preparation and planning during this time,” O’Dair wrote. “We shared this information in the spring with the faculty and executive directors of the various centers who typically invite these high-profile guests, but also wanted to make sure you are aware of this.”

The suspension coincides with the United Nations General Assembly high-level week, during which heads of state and government typically travel to New York to address the U.N. Last year, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković spoke at the Harvard Institute of Politics during UNGA week.

But inviting a foreign dignitary to visit campus — even one who is already traveling to the United States — is a complicated process that typically takes months of planning, including approval from the University Marshal’s Office.

In an Aug. 22 email, the Student Organization Center at Hilles — which oversees student organizations at the College — informed club leaders of the suspension.

Andrew Donahue, the assistant dean of student engagement and leadership, wrote in an emailed statement on Tuesday that the Student Engagement Office is “unaware of any student organizations affected by this decision.”

While the two-week suspension only applies to heads of state and government, O’Dair also discouraged the invitation of other high-profile guests to campus during the two days preceding Gay’s inauguration.

“Outside of heads of state, your school, department, or center is welcome to invite other distinguished guests to campus during these two weeks, except for September 27th to 29th,” O’Dair wrote. “While we will make every effort to assist you, please note that our office may not be able to provide our usual full support during this period.”

Gay’s inauguration ceremony will feature a host of prominent guests, including former Harvard presidents, members of the Harvard Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — and other high-profile speakers.

If past presidential inaugurations are any indication, Massachusetts Governor Maura T. Healey ’92 will likely deliver a speech in Tercentenary Theatre this year. Massachusetts governors Deval L. Patrick ’78 and Charlie D. Baker ’79 spoke at the inauguration ceremonies of Gay’s most recent predecessors — Drew Gilpin Faust and Lawrence S. Bacow, respectively.

—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at Follow him on X @mherszenhorn or on Threads @mileshersz.

—Staff writer Claire Yuan can be reached at Follow her on X @claireyuan33.

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