Harvard Denies Request For Posthumous Degrees for Seven Gay Students


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.


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Photo credit: via Flickr by Patricia Drury


Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

They were denied even staying in Cambridge and now they are being shun one more time. An apology 82 years later sound hollow and mean nothing when Harvard keep degrading those seven men

Sarah M.
Sarah M5 years ago

You suck Harvard.

Citizen G-Karl
Karl Heinemann5 years ago

I can understand and accept the objection that these students aren't properly entitled to these degrees because they never finished their program of study.

Many universities, however, do have a custom of awarding "honorary" degrees. And I do think it might be appropriate for Harvard to bestow such honorary degrees for these seven students, just as a courtesy and to acknowledge of their dismissal.

Nancy L.
Nancy L6 years ago

Ya, it sucks why they were made to leave, but nonetheless, they did not earn a degree. People need to learn from it and move on. Restitution? Seriously??? It was a sign of the times what happened to those students. We'd never be done apologizing if we had to somehow "make up" for every dumb thing done one hundred years ago. Put on your big pants and grow up.

Tom Jack
Tom Jack6 years ago

The worst thing that can happen to the allegedly pro Gay, pro liberal, pro left wing part of our populace is to allow this Ivy League paragon of radical, liberal virtue get away with this heinous hypocrisy. Its petty and shameful. How can they preach about civil rights and act is if these rights don't exist. This kind of hypocrisy rankles the right of center populace and makes the struggle for equality FOR ALL AMERICANS hard to achieve.

tiffany t.
tiffany t6 years ago


timothy m.
timothy m6 years ago

Had they earned degrees and been denied them, then grant them degrees.

But don't grant them degrees they didn't earn — and, yes, I know they were denied the opportunity to try to earn them — for being gay.

Isabel Ramirez
Isabel Ramirez6 years ago

I don't understand why being gay or thought to be gay a good reason to deny degrees as well as kick them out of the city. How is it even possible for them to do that? There should be a law against it.

sheila l6 years ago

are these students still alive? If they are, they should speak up themselves about this occurrence.

Mary L.
Mary L6 years ago

Robert O, I thought Havahdh was an elitist school, elite in their own minds certainly. This is disgusting.