Harvard Medical and Dental students criticize the administration for alleged censorship in the welcome video

Students at Harvard Medical School and the School of Dental Medicine claimed administrative censorship after pro-Palestine material was removed from the annual student-produced music video welcoming incoming admissions.

The film, created annually by the HMS and HSDM first-year classes for newly admitted students, was uploaded to YouTube on Friday.

Harvard Medical and Dental students criticize the administration for alleged censorship in the welcome video

Originally, one moment in the movie had a poster with the words “MDS4P” and a drawing of a watermelon, referring to Medical and Dental Students for Palestine, an officially registered HMS student organization. The watermelon, which bears the same colors as the Palestinian flag, has developed as a symbol of solidarity with Palestine in the aftermath of the Gaza conflict.

On March 19, numerous faculty members, including HMS Dean for Medical Education Bernard S. Chang ’93 and Dean of Students Fidencio Saldaña, screened the video before its distribution. The scene was later removed from the final version.

Chang and Saldaña met with the video’s production team three days after the faculty screening to inform them that the sign was “inappropriate in this year’s video as it would likely represent a political viewpoint and could alienate some members of the student body” (April 1, email to Class of 2027).

One hour before the April 1 email, multiple student groups—including MDS4P, the HMS Chapter of the Student National Medical Association, and five HMS/HSDM affinity groups—sent a statement to HMS officials to “ask for clarity” on the scene’s removal.

Chang and Saldaña apologized for not interacting with affected student groups earlier, one day before the video was released online (April 18).

Since then, some students have accused HMS and HSDM administrators of censorship.

In early April, a poster distributed at HMS headlined “A Declaration of Censorship” alleged that the “censorship decision was communicated unprofessionally, off the record, and via phone call” and that the “review process lacked transparency and accountability.”

In an email, HMS spokesperson Ekaterina D. Pesheva stated that “both Harvard Medical School and Harvard University have unequivocally reiterated their shared commitment to free expression and public discourse.”

“There is a place and space for protest and expression of political advocacy, but it is not in a celebratory student music video, which is meant to be a non-political, festive piece and designed to create a supportive, inclusive environment for all students and to welcome newly admitted ones,” she went on to say.

MDS4P representatives lambasted the decision in a Friday interview with The Crimson, with one stating, “It’s not about the music video. It’s all about principle.

“The censorship is unacceptable, regardless of your views on Palestine,” the spokesman continued.

Harvard Medical and Dental students criticize the administration for alleged censorship in the welcome video

The group alleged that authorities had imposed new limits on this year’s video.

“They do use the argument of things being political and use it as a means to exclude certain messaging,” the representative said, adding that “this has never happened before.”

The delegates referenced last year’s music video as a “prime example,” in which students displayed a sign reading “abortion is healthcare.”

The HMS/HSDM Student Council, which helped arrange the music video team and submitted the finished project to their YouTube account, stated in an email to The Crimson that “we are committed to creating an environment where all voices are heard and respected.”

“The removed scene was designed to celebrate ‘the rich tapestry of identities and interests within our student body’ and that the administration’s directive is antithetical to our mission of ‘creat[ing] an environment where all voices are heard and respected,’” they said in a statement.

In a Sunday Instagram post, the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee addressed charges of censorship surrounding the music video, distributing an MDS4P statement as well as a statement signed by numerous HMS and HSDM student groups.

A spokeswoman for MDS4P stated that in January, the group received an email from the HMS deans stating that “the music video should not be the space for any political messages.”

According to the spokesman, the group decided to respond to the email by using the abbreviation MDS4P along with a watermelon.

“Whether that’s political or not is up for debate,” they stated in an interview.

“It is our responsibility as students to stand up for what is right and what we believe in,” said an MDS4P representative. “It is our duty as future physicians to do so.”


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