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Bittersweet ceremonies mark troubled times on US campuses

Walkouts, cancellations and threats to pro-Palestinian students mar commencement celebrations

By MINGMEI LI in New York | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-06-11 07:31
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A graduate waves a Palestinian flag during the UC Berkeley Law School commencement in Berkeley, California, on May 10. [JESSICA CHRISTIAN/POLARIS]

This year's commencement ceremonies at many universities across the United States were marred by walkouts, pro-Palestinian students being threatened with expulsion and suspension of their degrees, and cancellation of a number of celebrations due to administrations' "safety concerns".

However, despite the majority of the commencement ceremonies — a day for conferring degrees or diplomas — now being completed, tension is still simmering between school officials and students over the rights and wrongs of campus protests.

Donned in kaffiyeh scarves and waving Palestinian flags, some students used their commencement ceremonies as protest platforms and urged their schools to take stronger action to end the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Many students and pro-Palestinian protesters also arranged walkouts to oppose school presidents who have not yet agreed to discuss plans for disclosure of interests and divestment from Israel and Israeli companies.

However, celebrations to mark the completion of academic degrees went ahead peacefully at other US universities. This year's cohort, including both undergraduate and graduate students, is the same generation that missed their high school and undergraduate graduation ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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