According to AP, “Students and faculty at Harvard University are urging administrators to award posthumous degrees to seven students expelled from the Ivy League school in 1920 because they were gay or perceived to be gay.”
The seven students, including the son of a former Massachusetts congressman, were not only asked to leave Harvard but also leave Cambridge, the city in which Harvard resides. The group says it wants Harvard to formally abolish its so-called “secret court,” a tribunal of administrators that investigated charges of homosexual activity among students in 1920 that remained a secret until its exposure in 2002.
However, the student activists’ requests have already been denied. A spokesman for Harvard says the university does not award posthumous degrees except in the rare case of a student who completes academic requirements but dies before the degree has been conferred.
The spokesman said Harvard expressed its “deep regret” in 2002 for the anguish experienced by the students and their families almost a century ago.
During a campus visit by Lady Gaga and Oprah on Wednesday, the group plans to hold a rally. The two will both be at Harvard to launch the pop star’s Born This Way anti-bullying foundation.
“Given the Born This Way Foundation’s commitment to this mission and their choice to launch their foundation at Harvard, we felt like this was an opportunity to ask for their support and would hope they would join us in…[seeking] justice for these students,” said Kaia Stern, a visiting faculty member at Harvard who plans to attend the rally.
According to their webpage, the Born This Way Foundation was founded “to foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated. The Foundation is dedicated to creating a safe community that helps connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a braver, kinder world.”
If you’re local to Boston, you can check out one of the local Cambridge business that plans to donate to BTWF. You can also sign up to watch a live stream of the launch of the Born This Way Foundation starting at 4pm eastern time on the website.
Photo credit: via Flickr by Patricia Drury