Commencement season is being ruffled by student protests. Which campuses are affected?

The University of Michigan's graduation ceremony was temporarily disrupted by a band of students who stood up from their seats and walked the aisles carrying Palestinian flags and kaffiyehs.

Student protests about the Israel-Hamas war have dragged the reputations of higher ed institutions and their leaders through the mud following a new wave of fiery campus clashes sparked by Columbia President Minouche Shafik’s Congressional hearing two weeks ago. Even as the semester winds down, pro-Palestinian student protesters continue to air their frustrations at commencement ceremonies nationwide.

From disinvited speakers to canceled commencement ceremonies, here are some of the latest clashes from the past weekend, as well as a forecast of turbulence to come.

Commencement under duress

The University of Michigan’s graduation ceremony was temporarily disrupted by a band of students who got up from their seats and walked the aisles carrying Palestinian flags and kaffiyehs. Students who were not originally part of the protest stood up and joined in, disregarding orders from police officers trying to regain control. “Regents, regents, you can’t hide! You are funding genocide!” they chanted, The New York Times reports.

While U-M student protestors eventually conceded and politely sat back down and rejoined their colleagues, students at Indiana University were not as interested in the status quo, staging walkouts. The first troupe of students to walk out was during the commencement speech by IU President Pamela Whitten, WISH reports. Last week, faculty issued Whitten a no-confidence vote. Students walked out a second time later on, to which they were greeted by boos.

During a graduation event at Northeastern University’s College of Social Sciences and Humanities, a graduate approached the stage wearing a shirt smeared with fake blood that spelled out “NEU KILLS,” WCVB reports. Other graduates displayed their cellphone screens to the camera streaming the event calling for their university to divest from all corporations associated with Israel.

“The disruptive stunt by one student at a college ceremony was upsetting to everyone who attended the event,” read a university statement. “Out of respect for members of our community, we will not amplify this disgraceful behavior by making it available online.”

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Trouble ahead

Columbia University and the University of Southern California have canceled their main commencement ceremonies, citing safety concerns. USC students took particular offense to this decision; administrators had just canceled its valedictorian’s planned speech after students aired their concerns about her pro-Palestinian slant.

Emory University is relocating its ceremony to an off-campus arena, WSB-TV reports.

The University of Vermont appears to have conceded to protestors’ wishes to disinvite Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, from speaking at its ceremony on May 18 and 19, VT Digger reports. Students cited Thomas-Greenfield’s contributions to the U.S. vetoing U.N. ceasefire resolutions in Gaza as their main grievance.

“Our graduating students want to enjoy the celebration of commencement, and we do not want the potential of disruption from a vocal minority to interfere with the moment,” Adam White, a university spokesperson, said in a statement.

Similarly, Dickinson College in Pennsylvania disinvited Michael Smerconish, a national radio and television host, after a student published an op-ed suggesting he held prejudice against Muslims. The decision drew mixed reactions from the community, Politics PA reports.

“This should be a cautionary tale,” Smerconish wrote in response, “for anyone in America who believes in fairness, common sense, the free exchange of ideas, rational decision-making and the importance of leadership in the face of hysteria.”

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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