Indian-American Harvard student slams university over response to Gaza protests

Shruthi Kumar, who got a standing ovation for her speech against her alma mater Harvard University, is a first-generation US college-goer. The eldest daughter of immigrants from India, Shruthi reveals how her parents couldn't guide her on the college admission process because they were ignorant about the system.
Indian-American Harvard student slams university over response to Gaza protests
Jaano Junction

Shruthi Kumar, an Indian-origin Harvard student lashed out against Harvard University, her alma mater, in her commencement ceremony speech on the university campus. That Shruthi defended the rights of her 13 classmates who were barred from graduating for their pro-Palestine protests is not her only praise, she is also the first from her family to go to an American college. She has narrated how she had to figure out the admission process to American universities herself as her parents were ignorant about the system.

Shruthi, the eldest daughter of South-Asian immigrants, grew up in the Great Plains of Nebraska alongside cattle ranches and cornfields.

Shruthi gained support from her Harvard peers and faculty members for her speech. Around 1,000 of the students staged a walkout after her speech in support of the 13 students barred by Harvard University from graduating for their protests against the war in Gaza.

Shruthi Kumar said in her speech, "As I stand here today, I must take a moment to recognise my peers — the 13 undergraduates in the Class of 2024 that will not graduate today."

"I am deeply disappointed by the intolerance for freedom of speech and the right to civil disobedience on campus," she said. This speech comes at a time when US universities have been seeing on-campus protests in favour of Gaza. The protests must be seen against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war which started in October last year.

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Indian-American Harvard student slams university over response to Gaza protests

Shruthi also gained support outside of her university for her courageous and bold act. She has always been vocal about her experience as a student and as an Indian-origin person.

In her write-up in the Harvard Magazine, she has discussed the power of not knowing or having a paved path. She discussed how her parents did not even know how to apply to a US college as they had never attended one.

"I grew up in the Great Plains of Nebraska alongside cattle ranches and cornfields. As the eldest daughter of South Asian immigrants, I was the first in my family to go to college here in the US," Shruthi wrote in the magazine.

Her life journey has been about figuring it out and embracing the unknown. She wrote,"From Nebraska to Harvard, I found myself redefining this feeling of not knowing. I discovered a newfound power in how much I didn’t know."

"I learnt this not only in the classroom, but also from the Class of 2024. In reflecting on our collective journey at Harvard, I’ve learnt it's often the moments of uncertainty from which something greater than we could have ever imagined grows."

In the unknown, she found unimaginable victories. Starting her Harvard journey in 2020, in a pandemic, she found ways to connect differently and build greater friendships.

From abortion rights to affirmative action, many uncertainties awaited the Harvard Students and their lives. "Whether we realise it or not, we have been swimming in uncharted waters," Kumar said.

In 2023, the Israel-Hamas war awaited them. The whole campus was divided about their stance and this again was a moment of "uncertainty and unrest across campus" and of "not knowing."

She then reassures her readers, "Solidarity is not dependent on what we know. I don’t know – so I ask. I listen. I believe an important type of learning takes place."

Shruthi urged her readers to deal with the unknown with curiosity and even empathy. "Can we see humanity in people we don’t know? Can we feel the pain of people with whom we disagree?

This Indian-origin Harvard student is asking the world to listen and to talk and to even see the pain of others. Will the world listen?

Source: India Today

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