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Harvard IOP Student Board Condemns Suspensions But Omits ‘Palestine Exception’ Reference After Contentious Meeting

The Harvard Institute of Politics Student Advisory Committee issued a statement blasting the College's suspension of students who participated in the pro-Palestine encampment.
The Harvard Institute of Politics Student Advisory Committee issued a statement blasting the College's suspension of students who participated in the pro-Palestine encampment. By Zadoc I.N. Gee
By William C. Mao and Dhruv T. Patel, Crimson Staff Writers

The Harvard Institute of Politics Student Advisory Committee issued a statement condemning the College’s decision to suspend students that participated in the encampment in Harvard Yard but omitted the phrase “Palestine exception to free speech” after at least two members objected during a heated three-hour Zoom meeting.

The carefully-worded statement follows statements from several student groups who also condemned the College for suspending five students and placing more than 20 others on probation over their participation in the encampment. However, unlike many of the groups, the SAC statement did not mention a Palestine exception or substantially address the war in Gaza.

Though an early draft contained the line “it is difficult to view this as anything other than the ‘Palestine exception to free speech,’” at least two voting SAC members voted against including the phrase, according to documents obtained by The Crimson and two people familiar with the matter.

The final version of the statement refers simply to “an exception to free speech.”

Since the SAC requires unanimous consent to comment on an issue, the group amended their statement to exclude the phrase in order to release a statement in some form, one of the people familiar with the matter said.

IOP President Pratyush Mallick ’25 said that SAC voted “on over 50 measures and different items on the actual language” of the statement, before landing on the final wording. He added that all members of the SAC present at the discussion voted in favor of the ultimate version of the statement.

Mallick declined to confirm whether members voted against including an explicit reference to Palestine, saying he could not to “speak to how people specifically vote.”

In the statement, SAC wrote that the College’s decision disregarded “the precedent of minor discipline” imposed against student protestors and set “an entirely new standard that will have a chilling effect on free speech and the right to protest on campus.”

“It is difficult to view this as anything other than an exception to free speech policies,” SAC wrote. “This disproportionate response does not match the severity of this civil disobedience — it is the wrong decision with dangerous future implications.”

The SAC’s statement comes after the SAC opted against making a statement about the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in October.

In response, three members of the SAC stepped down from the board, writing that they were “ashamed” the body was reluctant to condemn Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

At the time, the IOP executive team wrote that the SAC “heavily” weighed their options before ultimately deciding not to issue a statement and that they “unequivocally condemn all actors of terror and violence.”

Mallick said SAC issued a statement this time out of a commitment to uphold “intellectual vitality” and condemn the College’s decision, which Mallick called “a bad faith negotiation.”

“This is something that’s beyond geopolitics,” he said.

—Staff writer William C. Mao can be reached at william.mao@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @williamcmao.

—Staff writer Dhruv T. Patel can be reached at dhruv.patel@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @dhruvtkpatel.

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