Harvard refuses honorary degrees to past gay students expelled

Harvard showdown: No posthumous degrees for expelled gay students

Lady GagaA group of students and faculty members is planning a rally at Harvard University on Wednesday during a campus visit by Lady Gaga, who will be at the school to launch her Born This Way anti-bullying foundation. (Peter Kramer / Associated Press)
Harvard University isn’t backing down — and neither is Their Day in the Yard. 

The group of Harvard students, alumni and faculty has been urging the Ivy League school to award honorary posthumous degrees to seven students expelled more than 90 years ago for being gay or for being perceived as gay. On Tuesday, the university rejected the request, the Associated Press reported.

The school said it does not typically award posthumous degrees except in the rare case of a student who completes academic requirements but dies before the degree has been conferred, a spokesman told the AP.

A message left with a school spokesperson by The Times on Tuesday was not immediately returned.

But the university’s decision is not deterring Their Day in the Yard, which plans to present Harvard President Drew Faust with a petitionmaking its case.

So far, the group has collected almost 3,000 signatures and plans a demonstration at the school on Wednesday — the same day and location chosen by pop singer and provocateurLady Gaga for the kickoff of her Born This Way Foundation, an anti-bullying effort.

Their Day was founded by an alumna of the Harvard Extension School who has thus far chosen to remain anonymous. The group says it’s pressing for “honorary degrees” because they’re easier to grant.

Their Day in the Yard was founded in 2010 after it became known that Harvard’s so-called Secret Court, composed of university administrators, had expelled nine students in 1920 for being gay or for being perceived as  gay. The panel reportedly interrogated suspected students about their sexual orientation, according to the group’s website.

Details of the inquisition-style court were first reported in 2002 by the student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson. The report relied, in part, on hundreds of pages released by the university’s archive.

Two of the expelled nine were later readmitted.

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