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Harvard Motions To Dismiss Alumni Lawsuit Alleging Devaluation of Degrees Due to Antisemitism

Harvard asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by alumni alleging campus antisemitism has lessened the value of their degrees.
Harvard asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by alumni alleging campus antisemitism has lessened the value of their degrees. By Julian J. Giordano
By Matan H. Josephy and Dhruv T. Patel, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard asked a federal judge in Boston to dismiss a lawsuit by alumni alleging that antisemitism on campus has “significantly diminished” the value of their degrees in a Monday afternoon filing.

In a 19-page memorandum, the University argued that the plaintiffs’ status as alumni of Harvard was insufficient to support their “implied contractual relationship with Harvard” which the University claimed is needed for the plaintiffs’ lawsuit to have any legal merit.

Such a contract “is far too vague and indefinite to be actionable under Massachusetts law,” the filing stated.

The University added that if it were to fire employees or suspend or expel students — as the plaintiffs demand — it could lead to copycat lawsuits from alumni who feel their degrees have been devalued.

The lawsuit, filed in February by 10 alumni from schools across the University, alleged that Harvard “has despicably failed” in efforts to address antisemitism and hate on campus — something they said has devalued the “life-long prestige of having graduated from Harvard.”

“Harvard has directly caused the value and prestige of Plaintiffs’ Harvard degrees to be diminished and made a mockery out of Harvard graduates in the employment world and beyond,” the plaintiffs wrote in their initial complaint.

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, Harvard has been engulfed in controversy over allegations of antisemitism on campus.

Last month, the University filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit originally filed by six current Jewish students in January. In their suit, the students seek damages from the University alongside “concrete remedial measures” to address antisemitism.

Harvard is also being investigated by House Republicans over allegations of antisemitism on campus. In February, three members of Harvard’s leadership, including interim President Alan M. Garber ’76 — were subpoenaed by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce as part of the investigation.

The litigation also comes as Harvard officials struggle to deal with the ongoing pro-Palestinian encampment in Harvard Yard. On Monday, Harvard University police officers entered the encampment and photographed students who were present, as the prospect of police action becomes increasingly likely.

Robert Tolchin, one of the lawyers representing the alumni plaintiffs, slammed Harvard’s motion to dismiss in a statement to The Crimson.

“They do not take issue with the main issue we raised in this lawsuit, which is that Harvard’s reputation is tanking due to its coddling of antisemitism,” Tolchin wrote. “Yet Harvard’s response to the lawsuit is limited to pettifoggery over whether Harvard owes any obligation to its graduates to maintain Harvard’s reputation. To quote Taylor Swift, ‘What?!’”

“Harvard’s position is shocking, and every Harvard student and alumnus should be shocked,” he added.

A University spokesperson declined to comment for this article.

—Staff writer Matan H. Josephy can be reached matan.josephy@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @matanjosephy.

—Staff writer Dhruv T. Patel can be reached at dhruv.patel@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @dhruvtkpatel.

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