Tuesday, May 21, 2024

US universities make arrests, or deals, to protect commencement events

US universities

NEW YORK, MAY 11: Universities where protesters have pitched tents, occupied buildings and been arrested by the hundreds face another test this weekend: graduation.
Some of the campuses that have experienced the most turmoil over the war in the Gaza Strip, including California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, Emerson College, the University of Texas, Austin, and the University of California, Berkeley, will try to hold commencement ceremonies without major disruptions.
Even high-profile speakers have become a potential flashpoint, with author Colson Whitehead pulling out from speaking at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, after arrests there, and comedian Jerry Seinfeld, whose ardent support of Israel has become divisive in some circles, set to appear Sunday at Duke University.
Arrests continued Friday as more schools sought to secure their ceremonies, including at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Arizona. And the University of Wisconsin-Madison joined a handful of schools that have managed to strike deals with their demonstrators to clear out before graduation.
Here are other developments:
* A handful of people interrupted the ceremony for law school graduates at UC Berkeley on Friday with pro-Palestinian chants. Speakers, including Erwin Chemerinsky, the law school Dean, and Elizabeth Prelogar, the Solicitor General of the United States, struggled at times to be heard.
* Asna Tabassum, the University of Southern California valedictorian whose graduation speech was canceled after she was criticized by pro-Israel groups, received her diploma Friday morning. Students and families in the audience gave her a long round of applause, with a few standing ovations.
* Xavier University in New Orleans this week became the second school to rescind an invitation to Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the United Nations. The University of Vermont announced last week that she also would not be speaking there, agreeing to a key demand from student demonstrators.
* Arizona State University has put the chief of its campus police department on paid administrative leave. The decision came after complaints were filed related to the chief’s actions in late April, when campus police broke up a pro-Palestinian encampment and arrested dozens of people.
* Administrators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced that they had reached a resolution with protesters and that the encampment there would be cleared Friday. The school said protesters agreed not to disrupt graduation in return for meeting with decision-makers to discuss the university’s investments.
* More than 2,800 people have been arrested at pro-Palestinian protests on US campuses since April 18, according to New York Times tracking data.