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Harvard Struggles to Find ‘Class Day’ Speaker

Harvard University | Image by Jorge Salcedo/Shutterstock
Harvard University | Image by Jorge Salcedo/Shutterstock

Harvard College has yet to find a speaker for its annual “Class Day” ahead of its upcoming graduation ceremony.

Ten speakers have reportedly declined the invitation to give the keynote address.

According to The Harvard Crimson, the college’s undergraduate student newspaper, the Harvard Alumni Association is scrambling to find a speaker with less than two weeks to go before the event.

The invited speakers allegedly declined for various reasons, including concerns about associating themselves with Harvard “during a year of controversy,” scheduling constraints, and the school refusing to meet their demands for purportedly high speaker fees.

Harvard has been dealing with an anti-Israel “encampment” on campus, which was erected to protest Israel’s alleged conduct in its war against the terrorist organization Hamas in Gaza.

On May 6, Harvard interim president Alan Garber published a statement calling for an end to the then 12-day-long occupation of Harvard Yard by anti-Israel agitators.

“The continuation of the encampment presents a significant risk to the educational environment of the University. Those who participate in or perpetuate its continuation will be referred for involuntary leave from their Schools,” the statement reads. “Among other implications, students placed on involuntary leave may not be able to sit for exams, may not continue to reside in Harvard housing, and must cease to be present on campus until reinstated.”

The student protesters are calling for Harvard to divest from Israel, a common demand among the anti-Israel protests that have engulfed college campuses nationwide.

A university spokesperson claimed that none of the speakers who declined the invitation attributed it to the ongoing campus protests, according to The Harvard Crimson.

The spokesperson purportedly did not deny that the Harvard Alumni Association was having trouble finding a keynote speaker.

Harvard has previously brought in high-profile “Class Day” speakers, such as President Joe Biden, who spoke at the event in 2016, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in 2019, and actress Mindy Kaling in 2014.

The Harvard Senior Class Committee reportedly provided the Harvard Alumni Association with a list of 20 potential speakers; however, none of those invited to speak at the event have agreed to do so.

Actor Matt Damon, NBA all-star Shaquille O’Neal, and Drake have all reportedly declined the invitation to speak, said Fez Zafar, president of Harvard’s Class of 2024 and member of the Senior Class Committee, per The Harvard Crimson.

Other colleges, such as the University of Southern California, have decided to cancel their commencement ceremonies over safety concerns following anti-Israel protests on campus.

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