Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor Talks Justice, Civic Engagement at Radcliffe Day


Church Says It Did Not Authorize ‘People’s Commencement’ Protest After Harvard Graduation Walkout


‘Welcome to the Battlefield’: Maria Ressa Talks Tech, Fascism in Harvard Commencement Address


In Photos: Harvard’s 373rd Commencement Exercises


Rabbi Zarchi Confronted Maria Ressa, Walked Off Stage Over Her Harvard Commencement Speech

Op Eds

I Led The Crimson Through Historic Backlash. Now, Harvard’s Pro-Palestine Protesters Face Worse.

By Julian J. Giordano
By Raquel Coronell Uribe, Contributing Opinion Writer
Raquel Coronell Uribe ’22-’24, a former Crimson President, is a History and Literature concentrator in Dunster House.

Class of 2024, as we gather today to celebrate our graduation, look around.

When you see the empty seats near you, remember the members of our class not graduating with us. Namely, remember those who will not do so because they were punished this week — in flagrant disregard of decades of University precedent — for peacefully and civilly exercising their right to free speech.

This follows nearly an entire school year of doxxing and harassment aimed at harming and intimidating pro-Palestine students. As my peers faced the most intense outrage the digital age has to offer, many felt shock.

I felt déjà vu. In April 2022, while I served as president of The Crimson, the Editorial Board endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which calls for institutions to cut ties with Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.

The editorial met with backlash more swift and intense than I could possibly have imagined.

In the days and weeks that followed, we were lambasted by some of Harvard’s most prominent faculty members. Many of them, including a former University president, sought to strong-arm the newspaper out of its editorial autonomy, calling (ironically) for a boycott of the newspaper. Senators, the Anti-Defamation League, and a host of social media pundits excoriated the editorial.

But that’s just what was public. Behind the scenes, as the organization’s president, I received some of the most vile messages you could imagine.

One message hoped that my children would one day suffer; that my parents would succumb to Alzheimer’s and forget my name; that I would die a slow and painful death. Another called me an antisemite and compared me to Hitler, promising to “make justice” should its sender be near me.

I received hundreds of these messages over a period of weeks. At first, harassed online and facing sharp criticism from some of Harvard’s most powerful people — many, my role models — I felt panic. It was like drinking from a firehose. Before long, to endure, I became numb. I don’t know which was worse.

Others faced similar treatment. Members of the Editorial Board were harassed on social media, their personal information posted on the doxxing site Canary Mission. I was told the threats and harassment became so intense that the University — unprompted — felt it necessary to increase University police presence near The Crimson’s building.

Many of the people denouncing the editorial felt that it was antisemitic. As a Jew whose family has been chased out of its home country for centuries, I understand.

Three days ago, I attended the graduation ceremony for Jewish students. For my first two years at Harvard, I was at Hillel almost every week — to study, socialize, eat Shabbat dinner, and attend events. My penultimate piece as a reporter for The Crimson investigated the University’s failure to provide hot lunch to Kosher students.

I understand the discomfort that many Jewish people feel when they think of BDS. As Crimson president two years ago, I did not personally agree with the Editorial Board’s choice to unequivocally endorse it.

It is because of my family and my cultural tradition that I can empathize with the outrage that caused many at The Crimson to be doxxed and harassed, that brought me death threats and the worst months of my life.

But it is also because of my family — journalists driven out of Colombia for holding power to account, the people that have inspired me to become a journalist — that I feel compelled to defend the student press and denounce their attackers, even when I disagree.

Both a free press and freedom of speech are integral to a healthy university: Freedom of speech because it can push inquiry forward; freedom of the press because it can hold the structures of power at the university to account.

It seems nearly everyone at Harvard, regardless of their social and political views, claims to agree. But in the months after the BDS editorial, I watched many of the prominent Harvard affiliates who most vocally advocate for free expression fan the flames of a firestorm against The Crimson and myself.

A year and a half later, I watched in horror as many of the same people prosecuted an even more vicious campaign of harassment against my peers. Each day, it felt like I was reliving a small piece of those weeks of hell — every story about harassment, doxxing, or death threats made my heart beat faster. I felt echoes of panic I hadn’t felt in two years.

Theoretically, sharp criticism of students’ speech is essential for healthy campus discourse. Much as it’s caused me pain, I believe it’s permissible for campus public figures to dedicate their substantial resources to denouncing, blacklisting, or calling for the boycott of the student press. Punching down is free speech too.

But these figures should know what they do. They should know that their actions and the outside pressure they attract make this campus hostile to both freedom of the press and freedom of speech — values they often claim to champion.

In part because of their action, it is increasingly the case that students — journalists and not — cannot engage with one another, with their professors, or with the relevant issues on their campus without fear of public shaming or professional retaliation. Influential campus figures who should be seeking to create a healthy, safe campus environment have instead created one that can frankly be called McCarthyist.

As I watch dozens of my peers face harsh sanctions for peaceful protest that has historically faced almost none, it is apparent to me that the pressure created by influential figures — insiders and outsiders alike — significantly impacts how the school treats its students.

Witnessing the College’s erroneous suspension of a Crimson reporter for proximity to the encampment, I struggle to believe the University has not folded to pressure to impose discipline this draconian, unfair, and overinclusive.

Harvard boasts of a long, proud history of its graduates pushing forward the freedoms of this nation, including freedoms essential to the project of higher education. Now, outside actors pose an existential threat to the meaningful enjoyment of those freedoms.

It falls to the University and its community to resist them. With this past week’s suspensions, it has failed.

At Commencement today, we will listen to a speech from Maria Ressa, a pioneering journalist who won the Nobel Peace Prize for shedding light on the injustices perpetrated by undemocratic regimes. It will be a celebration of the essential importance of democratic freedoms — of speech, of the academy, of the press.

It is a sad irony that the Class of 2024 will not hear it together because, when push came to shove, Harvard failed to protect those very rights.

Raquel Coronell Uribe ’22-’24, a former Crimson President, is a History and Literature concentrator in Dunster House.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Op Eds

Related Articles

Office of Career Services