In Photos: Harvard’s 373rd Commencement Exercises

By Crimson Multimedia Staff
By Julian J. Giordano

Thousands of graduates, Harvard faculty, friends, and family crowded into Harvard Yard on Thursday for the University’s 373rd Commencement Exercises. But the usual pomp and circumstance of the ceremony were overshadowed by mass discontent over the decision to bar 13 pro-Palestine College student protesters from graduating. Crimson multimedia staff were there to document the ceremony and the walkout of more than 1,000 attendees in protest.

By Jina H. Choe

Before 8 a.m., students from Harvard’s 12 graduate schools and the College process through the Yard. Above, students in Lowell House march through the Yard behind two bagpipe players and a drummer.

Graduating students walk by the John Harvard statue in front of University Hall and tip their caps. The University conferred 7,782 degrees to students at the College and its 12 graduate and professional schools on Thursday.

Graduating seniors gather between Phillips Brooks House and Holden Chapel for Senior Valediction at 9 a.m. Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana and outgoing Eliot House Faculty Dean Stephanie Paulsell addressed the seniors before they proceeded to Tercentenary Theatre for the ceremony.

Isabella E. Peña ’24 sings the national anthem at the start of the Commencement ceremony.

Harvard’s Muslim chaplain Khalil Abdur-Rashid Hillel and campus Rabbi Getzel Davis give an opening blessing, marking the first time in Harvard’s history that the University has had two chaplains of different religions as the chaplains of the day.

Interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 begins his address to seniors by acknowledging that protesters may try to disrupt the graduation ceremony to protest Israel’s war in Gaza. Garber then held a minute of silence for those experiencing “moments of fear, dread, grief and anguish” in the world.

Blake Alexander Lopez ’24 delivered the Latin Salutatory — an address entirely in Latin — at the start of the ceremony. His address was titled “Distantia Propinquior” or “A Nearer Distance.”

Shruthi Kumar ’24 delivered the Senior English Address. She veered off-script from her speech, which was titled “The Power of Not Knowing,” to criticize the University for denying 13 graduating seniors their diplomas after they faced disciplinary charges over their participation in the pro-Palestine Harvard Yard encampment.

Asmer A. Safi ’23-’24 (left), one of the students denied their degree, stands and raises his fist after Kumar’s speech. Kumar received a standing ovation from the crowd, including members of the faculty.

Harvard Law School graduate Robert L. Clinton IV delivered the final student speech: the Graduate English Address. Titled “On Being Good,” Clinton’s speech addressed the seven months of intense scrutiny on Harvard’s campus, acknowledging the 13 seniors denied diplomas and calling on attendees to demand a ceasefire in Gaza.

Harvard Law School graduate Lea H. Kayali waves a keffiyeh during Clinton’s speech. Shortly afterward, Kayali participated in a walkout of more than 1,000 students, faculty, and commencement attendees who then marched to Epworth Church to attend the “People’s Commencement,” at which Kayali delivered the opening address.

Demonstrators at the Commencement ceremony roll up a more than 140-yard-long canvas listing the names of Palestinians killed in the violence in Gaza.

Honorary Harvard degrees were bestowed on six recipients. From left to right: conductor Gustavo A. Dudamel Ramírez; Jeannie Chin Hansen, former CEO of the American Geriatrics Society; Sylvester James Gates Jr., a physics professor at the University of Maryland; and Joy Harjo-Sapulpa, a chancellor of the American Academy of Poets and former U.S. Poet Laureate. Former University President Lawrence S. Bacow and Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist Maria A. Ressa also received honorary degrees.

Maria Ressa addressed the Class of 2024 as the principal speaker at the Commencement ceremony. In her address to the Class of 2024, Ressa discussed her experience facing repression for her investigative journalism and the importance of searching for truth in a world filled with increasing disinformation.

Following Shruthi and Clinton’s speeches before her, Ressa addressed the campus protests which she said “are testing everyone in America.”

“Protests are healthy; they shouldn’t be violent. Protests give voice; they shouldn’t be silenced,” she said, to applause.

Middlesex County Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian brought the ceremony to a close shortly before noon, pounding his staff three times to the cheers of attendees.

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