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Why protest at graduation. Save that for the Dem Conv!

Hey guys! As much as you're probably pissed at NW for ripping you off ($82,000 per year...haha); they are probably not responsible for the ill-advised military hijinks of Bibi and his merry men.

Don't worry, however. Joe and the DNC will love you guys! Remember to bring your tent and a bullhorn!

PS. Lighten up. Smile and the world smiles with you.

Pro-Palestinian protesters walk out of Northwestern commencement


June 9, 2024

Claiming their degrees are “stained with blood,” several dozen pro-Palestinian protesters walked out of Northwestern University’s commencement ceremony on Sunday at the United Center, despite repeated warnings by the elite Big 10 school’s administration against graduation disruptions.

“There are twice as many murdered Palestinians as there are seats in the United Center. And Northwestern refuses to cut ties with genocide,” said Jordan Muhammad, a graduating student organizer with Students for Justice in Palestine, in a written statement. “While we sit here, Israel is destroying the dream of education, much less graduating, for young people in Palestine and we refuse to allow our university’s complicity to go unchecked.”

Some protesters wore keffiyeh scarves, a symbol of solidarity for a Palestinian state, and others waved Palestinian flags. The words “What about Gaza’s class of 2024?” were affixed to Muhammad’s graduation gown.

The disruption was peaceful and, after walking out, the graduate-activists gathered outside the United Center at a designated “free speech” area to continue their protest. A crowd of more than 100 protesters — some in graduation caps and gowns — encircled a banner reading, “No graduation in Gaza,” which featured photographs and short bios of some of the people killed in Gaza.

“I’m just very proud of our graduating students who have taken this stance and did not choose to be complicit in genocide,” said Mounica Sreesai, a doctoral student at Northwestern.

The pro-Palestinian protesters have demanded the Northwestern divest from financial assets with ties to Israel.

“The commencement ceremony is intended to honor the hard work and achievements of our student body,” a university spokeswoman said in an email. “As other universities have experienced this commencement season, a small group of students walked out during our ceremony. We remain incredibly proud of the accomplishments of our Class of 2024.”

One man exiting the commencement ceremony booed the pro-Palestinian protesters outside but declined to comment to the Tribune.

Another man shouted “Bring them home,” an apparent reference to hostages kept by Hamas since the Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel, which killed roughly 1,200 and plunged the region into an ongoing war. Roughly 35,000 Palestinians have been killed during the war since its inception, according to the United Nations.

The walkout comes as Northwestern — and many universities and colleges across the country — grapple with balancing the free speech of students protesting the Israel-Hamas war with the need to guard against discrimination on campus.

Northwestern President Michael Schill was grilled last month by lawmakers at a congressional hearing in Washington D.C. on the rise of antisemitism on college campuses, where he admitted that the university’s rules and policies “are falling short” and will be updated over the summer.

Officials from the Anti-Defamation League have called for Schill’s resignation, citing allegations of antisemitism on campus, particularly amid a recent pro-Palestinian protest encampment erected at Northwestern University, which was peacefully dismantled following negotiations between administrators and student activists.

In Schill’s commencement speech Sunday, he acknowledged that “this has been a difficult year.”

“But I want to focus on this moment right here in the United Center,” he said. “Today is about achievement. Today is about determination. Today is about you.”

The audience cheered. But shortly after, pro-Palestinian protesters began streaming out of the United Center, where roughly 7,700 Northwestern students were graduating.

Before the ceremony, Northwestern officials had warned against any commencement disruptions, as other universities and colleges nationwide have faced graduation ceremony protests or canceled commencement events citing pro-Palestinian activism.

“While the university supports freedom of expression, graduation ceremonies are not the time nor place for disruptive demonstrations,” Northwestern said in a written statement. “The university has designated a free speech area outside each venue and encourages anyone who wishes to engage in expressive activity to do so there. Any such activity inside the venue may not disrupt the ceremony or prevent others from enjoying it.”

The statement added that anyone who didn’t adhere to these rules “will face discipline, and anyone who disrupts the ceremony could be asked to leave.”

“All students, including those graduating, remain subject to the Student Code of Conduct,” the statement said. “Violations of the Code of Conduct will result in disciplinary sanctions up to and including expulsion. Degrees will be held pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.”

Graduate Ben Cummings, who walked out in support of the Palestinians, acknowledged that he and other students were taking a risk to protest during commencement.

“In organizing, there was that level of risk,” he said. “We decided we were willing to take that risk, as part of a larger student movement across the country.”

The University of Chicago withheld the degrees of four seniors who allegedly participated in a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus, which was cleared by university police in May. A U. of C. spokesman said the process is standard after a formal complaint is reviewed by the university’s disciplinary committee.

Earlier this month, students also walked out of the graduation ceremony at the University of Chicago, citing the war in Gaza.

Students have also recently walked out of graduation ceremonies at Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others as protest encampments and other pro-Palestinian demonstrations have taken hold at campuses across the country.

Higher education institutions nationwide have faced mounting accusations of fostering a hostile climate for Jews on their campuses, particularly since the Oct. 7 attack.

The Afternoon Briefing: Chicago Tribune editors' top story picks, delivered to your inbox each afternoon.

The Anti-Defamation League Midwest recently called for Schill’s resignation or removal by the university board of trustees, arguing in a statement that Jewish students at Northwestern “have been harassed and intimated by blatant antisemitism on campus.”

Several Jewish Northwestern students recently filed a lawsuit alleging the school allowed pro-Palestinian demonstrations at the now-defunct encampment to become “increasingly hostile to Jews.”

Schill, who describes himself as a “proud Jew” raised with a love for Israel, has said he believes the university can protect students from antisemitism and other forms of hate while allowing protesters their right to freedom of expression.

“We are confident we can continue to promote two principles at the core of our mission ― free expression and academic freedom ― while disciplining harassment and intimidation,” Schill said during the congressional hearing last month.

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