Who is Shruthi Kumar? Indian-origin student who blasted Harvard University over Gaza protests response in viral speech | Trending - Hindustan Times
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Who is Shruthi Kumar? Indian-origin student who blasted Harvard University over Gaza protests response in viral speech

May 28, 2024 06:00 PM IST

Shruthi Kumar, an Indian-American student at Harvard, is the eldest daughter of South Asian immigrants. She blasted Harvard over its response to Gaza protests.

Shruthi Kumar, an Indian-American student at Harvard, criticised her alma mater for its response to pro-Palestine protests during her commencement ceremony speech on the university campus. Kumar, one of the three students who won the honour to speak at the graduation, veered off from her prepared speech titled “The Power of Not Knowing”.

Indian-American Harvard student Shruthi Kumar is the first in her family to attend a college in the US. (LinkedIn/@shruthi-kumar)
Indian-American Harvard student Shruthi Kumar is the first in her family to attend a college in the US. (LinkedIn/@shruthi-kumar)

Kumar pulled out a piece of paper from her gown and addressed the intolerance of freedom of speech and civil disobedience on campus. She highlighted the plight of 13 undergraduates from the class of 2024 who were not allowed to graduate due to their involvement in the Gaza protests.

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“The students had spoken. The faculty had spoken. Harvard, do you hear us?” she said.

After her speech, students staged a walkout in support of the 13 students barred from graduating for their protests against the war in Gaza.

Read| Netizens fume as Harvard University students fly Palestinian flag in spot reserved for American flag: 'Fall from grace’

But who is Shruthi Kumar? Here’s all you need to know about the Harvard student

1- Shruthi Kumar is the eldest daughter of South Asian immigrants. She is the first in her family to attend a college in the US.

2- She grew up in the Great Plains of Nebraska alongside cattle ranches and cornfields.

3- Kumar did her schooling at Marian High School.

4- She is the founder of GoYogi - a non-profit organisation focused on mental health education.

5- Shruthi has been the President of the Harvard South Asian Association since May 2022.

6- She also serves as the co-director of the Wellness Educator Program at Harvard University.

7- Fluent in English, Kannada, and Tamil, she also has limited working proficiency in Spanish.

8- She has interned at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among others.

Also Read| US campus crackdown 10-point update: Protestors detained across USC, Harvard, Columbia

Shruthi Kumar’s off-script speech at Harvard

“As I stand before you today, I must take a moment to recognise my peers, the 13 undergraduates… in the class of 2024 who will not graduate today. I am deeply disappointed by the intolerance of freedom of speech and the right to civil disobedience on campus. What is happening on campus is about liberty,” said Kumar.

“The students had spoken. The faculty had spoken. Harvard, do you hear us?” she stressed.

The Indian-origin student went on to say, “Now, we are in a moment of intense division and disagreement in our community over the events in Gaza. I see pain, uncertainty, and unrest across campus. It’s now, in a moment like this, that the power of ‘not knowing’ becomes critical.”

“Maybe we don’t know what it’s like to be ethnically targeted. Maybe we don’t know what it’s like to come face to face with violence and death. But we don’t have to know,” she added.

She further expressed, “Solidarity is not dependent on what we know because ‘not knowing’ is an ethical stance. It creates space for empathy, solidarity, and a willingness to listen.”

“I don’t know - so I ask. I listen. I believe an important type of learning takes place, especially in moments of uncertainty, when we lean into conversation without assuming we have all the answers. Can we see humanity in people we don’t know? Can we feel the pain of people with whom we disagree?” Kumar concluded.

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