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5 Harvard Students Suspended, More Than 20 Face Probation for Encampment Participation

Harvard suspended 5 students and placed more than 20 others on probation over their involvement in the pro-Palestine encampment in Harvard Yard, which ended Tuesday.
Harvard suspended 5 students and placed more than 20 others on probation over their involvement in the pro-Palestine encampment in Harvard Yard, which ended Tuesday. By Frank S. Zhou
By Joyce E. Kim and Neil H. Shah, Crimson Staff Writers

Updated May 18, 2024, at 12:50 a.m.

The Harvard College Administrative Board suspended five students and placed more than 20 students on probation Friday evening over their involvement in the 20-day pro-Palestine encampment in Harvard Yard, according to two Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine organizers and a faculty member with knowledge of the situation.

At least one graduating senior will be required to withdraw from the College for three semesters and a rising junior will be forced to withdraw for two semesters. The College will also prevent at least 12 seniors from graduating at Commencement, which will be held in six days.

Of the 12 seniors, two of them were among the five students who were forced to withdraw from the College on Friday.

Suhaas M. Bhat ’24, a Rhodes Scholar-elect, announced that he was put on probation at the start of the Class of 2024 Senior Talent Show, which he was initially slated to help judge.

“Harvard is not allowing me to graduate this semester for my participation in the encampment,” Bhat told the crowd of seniors in Sanders Theatre. “I think it’s a good time to think about what it means to go to this University and what it means to have freedom of speech and what our moral obligations are when 40,000 innocent people die.”

Bhat wrote in a statement that he was charged by the Ad Board with “participation” in the encampment and violating Harvard’s University-Wide Statement on Rights and Responsibilities.

However, Bhat wrote that while the Ad Board subcommittee responsible for evaluating his case found him not responsible for violating the Rights and Responsibilities statement, the “complete Ad Board voted to place me on academic probation, and thus prevent me from graduating.”

College spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo wrote in a statement that the College is “committed to applying all policies in a content-neutral manner and per existing regulations as outlined in college and university guidelines.”

Palumbo declined to comment on the specific Ad Board charges against students.

The disciplinary action comes after a group of organizers with Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine — a coalition of pro-Palestine student groups — met with interim University President Alan M. Garber ’76 to negotiate a peaceful end to the encampment. Organizers announced their decision to conclude the encampment on Tuesday, after an initial failed attempt at reaching an agreement to end the protest.

At least 60 students initially received notices to appear before the Ad Board over their involvement in the encampment. It is unclear how many cases remain unresolved.

On Wednesday, the University reinstated more than 22 students — at least 13 of whom were undergraduates — from involuntary leaves of absence last week. The reinstatements were a part of Garber’s agreement with HOOP organizers to end the encampment, which also included a meeting with members of the University’s governing boards about divestment.

Involuntary leaves of absence are distinct from disciplinary proceedings before the Ad Board.

Several students facing disciplinary action also claimed that they were under the impression that Garber’s administration would grant leniency to students if they voluntarily ended the encampment.

Garber wrote in a Tuesday morning email to HOOP organizers following the end of the encampment that he would “encourage the administrative boards or other disciplinary bodies within the schools to address cases expeditiously under existing precedent and practice (including taking into account where relevant the voluntary decision to leave the encampment), for all students, including those students eligible thereafter to graduate so that they may do so.”

But a copy of the email reviewed by The Crimson does not contain any explicit promises from Garber that the Ad Board would be lenient in its decisions.

Christina A. Jump — the head of the civil litigation department of the Muslim Legal Fund of America, which accused Harvard of anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim bias in a civil rights complaint on behalf of a dozen students — said her team intends to “proceed with full disclosure to the Office of Civil Rights and communicate accurately that these students were given false impressions.”

“We are disappointed to see Harvard, at best, doing a wordplay that misled the students into reaching the agreement they did, and, at worst, is illegal retaliation,” Jump said.

Several students facing Ad Board charges maintained that the disciplinary consequences were unfair and disproportionate to charges levied in the past against students.

Bhat, whose Rhodes scholarship may now be at risk due to the probation charge, shared a portion of his Ad Board statement in response to a request for comment.

Bhat wrote that he won the scholarship “in part because of my work as a fossil fuel divestment activist.”

“Do these accolades mean anything if I do not actually live by the principles that they are recognizing?” he added. “Am I no longer an ideal Harvard student if I ask the University to live up to its own principles?”

—Staff writer Joyce E. Kim can be reached at Follow her on X at @joycekim324.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at Follow him on X @neilhshah15.

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