Harvard Returns Student's Kirpan After Sikh Coalition Intervention

July 31, 2006

Source: Sikh Coalition


On July 31, 2006 Sikh Coalition reported, "Harvard University has returned a Sikh student’s kirpan as a result of the Sikh Coalition’s intervention. The student, Navdeep Singh, had voluntarily given his kirpan to a University administrator who requested that the administration be able to keep it while the university determined whether he would able to wear it on campus. The student’s kirpan was returned to him within hours after the Coalition’s intervention.

Navdeep Singh, a Harvard Summer School student, contacted the Coalition on July 6, 2006 because an Assistant Dean requested that he provide Harvard documentation on the religious nature of his kirpan and any legal authority supporting his right to carry it. The Coalition’s Legal Director provided Navdeep with the Coalition’s now standard twenty-eight page compilation of legal argument and precedent on the kirpan and the right to carry it. Navdeep in turn submitted the Coalition’s document to his Assistant Dean.

On July 11, 2006, the Dean of the Harvard Summer School summoned Navdeep to a 9:00 a.m. the next morning. That morning, the Dean told Navdeep that University officials had not yet decided whether he would be allowed to carry his kirpan while attending the summer school. He asked that Navdeep give his kirpan to him while University officials made their determination over the next two days. Navdeep complied with the request and parted with his kirpan.

Upset, Navdeep called the Coalition to request additional assistance. The Coalition’s Legal Director immediately placed calls to the Dean of the Summer School and Harvard’s Pluralism Project during the late morning of July 12. Staff at the Pluralism Project were able to pass along the Coalition’s concerns to administration officials.

At approximately 3:00 p.m. that afternoon Dean Christopher Queen, Lecturer on the Study of Religion and Dean of Students for Continuing Education in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences called the Coalition’s Legal Director to let him know that Navdeep’s kirpan would be returned to him that day and that he would be allowed to wear his kirpan during his summer courses at Harvard. Dean Queen was kind and apologetic in explaining that University officials needed time to understand Navdeep’s kirpan and the reasons he carries it."