Harvard and MIT ratcheted up pressure on students protesting the war in Gaza, threatening suspension of students who refuse to end their campus occupations and remove their tents.

“The continuation of the encampment presents a significant risk to the educational environment,” Harvard interim President Alan M. Garber wrote in an email to students and alumni. “Those who participate in or perpetuate its continuation will be referred for involuntary leave from their Schools.”

At MIT, President Sally Kornbluth said in an email that student protesters had until 2:30 p.m. today to remove their encampment on the Kresge lawn or face consequences. She wrote in an email to the MIT community that said she had hoped to avoid a confrontation by engaging students in good-faith discussion, but cited rising safety concerns.

“No matter how peaceful the students behavior may be, unilaterally taking over a central portion of our campus for one side of a hotly disputed issue and precluding use by other members of our community is not right,” she wrote. “This situation is inherently highly unstable.”

Sam Ihns, an MIT graduate student involved with the encampment, told GBH News that police erected guard posts around the encampment this morning. Ihns said that police stopped allowing anyone to enter the area in the early afternoon.

MIT officials said students who remained at the MIT encampment after the deadline would be placed on immediate interim academic suspension through commencement and referred to the Committee on Discipline. Those who remained and already have cases pending would not be allowed to stay in campus housing or use dining halls.


As of 5 p.m., about a dozen tents remained in the encampment as police stood guard at the only gap in the barrier. Demonstrators pushed down the fencing and retook the field around 6 p.m.

Quinn Perian, an MIT student, told GBH News that the university should be focusing its efforts on cutting ties with Israel, not disciplining students. Scientists Against Genocide, a pro-Palestinian activist group, reports that since 2015, MIT has received over $11 million in authorized research funding from the Ministry of Defense of Israel, with nearly $4 million of these contracts spent.

“It's a disgrace what MIT is doing right now,” Perian said. “They could so easily cut these ties. It's really exceptionally direct what they're doing. They're helping build the weapons that are being used in this genocide.”

A large number of pro-Palestinian protesters converged on MIT's campus on Monday afternoon to show their frustration with the school's response and support for students remaining in the encampment.

More than one hundred high school students joined the crowd as part of an organized walkout.

“As high schoolers who will hopefully attend these universities, we are seeing current students being attacked for using their First Amendment rights,” said Valerie Nguyen, a senior at Boston Latin School, who helped organize the walkout. “And we don't want to go enter that academic world where we will be at risk for the same reasons.”

A teenager holds a bullhorn with both hands as she speaks to a crowd of protesters.
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Valerie Nguyen, who helped organize a high school student walkout, speaks through a bullhorn on MIT's campus on Monday, May 6, 2024.
Hannah Reale / GBH News
People tear off the top of a large cylindrical cardboard structure with the sign reading "MIT take down your Apartheid wall"
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Protesters tear down a cardboard rendition of the guard rails MIT put up around the pro-Palestine encampment on May 6, 2024.
Hannah Reale / GBH News
Two people, separated by a large metal barricade and green tarp, talk to one another as a huge crowd stands on the sidewalk and building balcony behind them.
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Protesters talk to one another over downed barriers at MIT's campus on Monday, May 6, 2024.
Hannah Reale / GBH News
Seven college-age people sit between columns at the entrance to a large building. One holds a Palestine flag. Another has a sign reading "All children are our children."
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A group of pro-Palestine protesters sit by the doors of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning on Monday, May 6, 2024, after police halted access to the encampment across the street.
Hannah Reale / GBH News
Dozens of protesters link arms and hold signs opposing the genocide of Palestinian people.
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Protesters link arms on MIT's campus on May 6, 2024.
Hannah Reale / GBH News
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At Harvard, university officials said students placed on leave would not be allowed to sit for exams or continue to reside in Harvard housing, and must vacate the campus until reinstated.

Protesters organized a rally at 5 p.m. in response to the university's announcement. At the event, speakers said that they have repeatedly asked for meetings with Harvard leadership to discuss their demand for the university to divest from companies tied to Israel.

“President Garber would like to paint himself as a reasonable man, and we all know that Harvard will do anything to protect its image. But today, the reality is undeniable,” said Leah, who did not provide their last name but identified as a member of the group Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine. “In response to mass student nonviolent protest, he has decided to that he would rather forcibly remove student protesters than come to the table.”

Hibah Osman, an associate professor and representative of Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, also spoke at the rally.

“These kids have the courage to do this and stand up against everything, all the barriers from our administration, because they are our moral compass, because they stand for justice.”

A woman stands behind a small lectern with a Palestine flag draped over the top. Surrounding her are dozens of protesters and reporters.
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Hibah Osman, assistant professor of medicine, speaks at a pro-Palestine protest on Harvard's campus May 6, 2024.
Phillip Martin / GBH News
A person wearing a scarf over their head stands in front of a Palestinian flag.
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A pro-Palestine protester during a rally on Harvard's campus May 6, 2024.
Phillip Martin / GBH News
A couple dozen people holding signs and one holding a large cardboard rocket that says "paid for by Harvard" rally outside a Harvard building.
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Protesters gather on Harvard's campus on May 6, 2024.
Phillip Martin / GBH News
Two people hold signs saying "Hamas murders, kidnaps, rapes" and photos of kidnapped children.
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Protesters hold up signs of children held hostage by Hamas as they stand by Harvard's pro-Palestine encampment on May 6, 2024.
Phillip Martin / GBH News
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Brian Rosenberg, a visiting professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Education and former president of Macalester College, said earlier on Monday that he expected that the threat of suspension would lead most of the protesters to disperse.

“It is much more consequential for student protesters than bringing in the police, because very often these protesters want to be arrested,” he said.

Arrested students often face a low-level misdemeanor charge following an arrest, while suspension or expulsion from an Ivy League university can have more dire academic consequences.

Among them, he said, are “parents who are not really happy about having paid tens of thousands of dollars for a semester of college [that] just went out the window.”

Academic sanctions also allow the college to avoid “really problematic optics of bringing in the police” and the potential for a situation that can get out of control.

Read the Harvard email:

Read the MIT announcement:

Corrected: May 07, 2024
This post has been updated to correct the name of the high school Valerie Nguyen attends.