Harvard group which seeks degrees for gay students expelled in 1920 will hold rally during Lady Gaga visit today
Protesters are today calling on Lady Gaga to back their campaign for Harvard University to overturn its expulsion of gay students almost a century ago.
In 1920, Harvard president Abbott Lawrence Lowell began a 'secret court' which hunted down gay people studying at the Ivy League college in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Nine students were expelled as a result and campaign group Their Day in the Yard is mounting pressure on the US university to reverse the decision and award posthumous degrees to the students.
Despite the college apologizing in 2002, the group will hold a rally outside Harvard's Sanders Theater today at 3pm, timed to coincide with a visit by gay icon Lady Gaga.
The global superstar will be at the college to launch her Born This Way Foundation, which aims to tackle bullying and promote youth empowerment and equality, and demonstrators are calling on the Bad Romance singer to get behind their campaign.
'Given the Born This Way Foundation’s commitment to this mission and their choice to launch their foundation at Harvard, we felt like this was an opportunity to ask for their support and would hope they would join us in asking Harvard to do the right thing here and help seek justice for these students,' said Reverend Dr Kaia Stern, who will be holding a moment of silence to remember and honor the students at the rally.
Oprah Winfrey, spiritual leader Deepak Chopra and US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius are expected to join Gaga for the launch.
Protesters will also deliver a petition of more than 3,000 signatures to Harvard's President Faust.
Writing on the petition's website Change.org, Achmad Jamal said: 'This would be a blot on any tertiary educational institute's honor, much less one that is supposed to be one of the best in the world.
'Time to do what little can be done to right this wrong, Harvard.'
'I am gay and currently attending college,' Gregg Hierholzer wrote.
'Secret organizations are a shame and should not be tolerated in today's society and this one that expelled students that either were or perceived to be gay is wrong on so many levels.'
The secret court only came to light after a student reporter discovered files in the university archives 10 years ago.
Two of the students who were expelled were allowed back, but the rest were not, with 23-year-old Eugene R Cummings killing himself over the ordeal.