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Classes to Continue Through Historic Inauguration of Harvard President Claudine Gay

Harvard will not suspend classes for students during the Sept. 29 inauguration of President Claudine Gay, pictured at Commencement in 2023.
Harvard will not suspend classes for students during the Sept. 29 inauguration of President Claudine Gay, pictured at Commencement in 2023. By Ryan H. Doan-Nguyen
By Miles J. Herszenhorn and Claire Yuan, Crimson Staff Writers

Attend Harvard President Claudine Gay’s historic inauguration or Gov 50 section?

That’s the question some students will have to grapple with on Sept. 29, as classes are set to proceed as scheduled while Harvard inaugurates its 30th president — and the first person of color to serve in the role — in an afternoon ceremony in Tercentenary Theatre.

Harvard will not suspend classes for Gay’s inauguration, a full day of festivities that is set to begin at 10:15 a.m. and conclude in the evening, according to University spokesperson Jason A. Newton.

The University Marshal’s Office has spent the past several months organizing Harvard’s first presidential inauguration in five years. An inauguration advisory board comprised of “leaders who oversee key areas at the University” was assembled to provide guidance to various planning groups, according to Newton.

University Marshal Katherine G. O’Dair, who also serves as Gay’s chief of staff, announced in July that Harvard will suspend visits from heads of state and government across the University from Sept. 16 to Sept. 30, as the Marshal’s Office focuses on the inauguration.

Planning the inauguration “involves dozens of people from across the University working on distinct elements” — from communications to hospitality and the events themselves — including a “central coordination team overseen by the Marshal’s Office,” according to Newton.

The day will start with an academic symposium consisting of six concurrent panels themed around some of the world’s most pressing issues. The panels — which will be held in person at a variety of locations across campus — are set to feature some of Harvard’s leading scholars.

Held in the Science Center, the first session — moderated by Vice Provost of Special Projects Sara N. Bleich, who is overseeing Harvard’s Legacy of Slavery initiative — will discuss how to “confront and dismantle systemic injustices.” Just down the street, Kari Nadeau — interim director of Harvard Chan C-CHANGE and chair of the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health will moderate a discussion on the global climate crisis.

Another set of two panels address pressing technological and scientific advances, discussing the use of artificial intelligence in education and biomedical research. The panel on AI will include Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda Claybaugh.

Some panels will also deal with more abstract topics, including the future of higher education — moderated by Dean of Arts and Humanities Robin Kelsey — and democracy, featuring panelists including Danielle S. Allen, government professor and former director of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics, and Jill Lepore, an American history professor.

The inauguration ceremony is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. and will feature a variety of speakers, presentations, and artistic performances. Several thousand people are expected to attend the inauguration, including some elected officials and past Harvard presidents, according to Newton.

Massachusetts Governor Maura T. Healey ’92 is expected to be in attendance, as the state’s incumbent governor attended the past two Harvard presidential inaugurations. The event is also expected to bring together the six living University presidents for the first time since Gay assumed office in July.

The inauguration will also be a chance for Harvard to honor some of its centuries-old traditions. The University’s governing boards will present Gay with a charge of office and Gay’s predecessors will present her with the symbols of office, including a handover of the Harvard stamp, which bears the University seal.

Immediately after the ceremony’s conclusion, a celebratory block party will be held in Harvard Yard. The celebration is expected to feature food, music, and performances by undergraduate and graduate student groups.

Harvard University Dining Services will also mark Gay’s inauguration by serving a special Haitian dinner in undergraduate dining halls, a nod to the president’s background as the daughter of Haitian immigrants.

—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at Follow him on X @mherszenhorn or on Threads @mileshersz.

—Staff writer Claire Yuan can be reached at Follow her on X @claireyuan33.

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