Virginia University Students Walk Out Of Grad Ceremony

Virginia University Students Walk Out Of Grad Ceremony

Some students had criticised the selection of Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin as this year's speaker, both for his opposition to a racial literacy requirement being considered by VCU as well as for saying that encampments on college should not be allowed.

Siksha MUpdated: Monday, May 13, 2024, 03:24 PM IST
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Many who left during Governor Youngkin’s speech while support for the Palestinian cause | Getty Images

Dozens Of Virginia Commonwealth University Students walked out of their graduation ceremony on Saturday, partly over the state governor, also the speaker's response to campus protests.

This came as US school officials braced for possible disruptions of commencement events over Israel-Gaza war protests, according to a BBC report.

Dozens of colleges roiled by protests are holding graduations this weekend. More than 2,000 people have been arrested since protests began mid-April. Social media posts on Saturday showed Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) students in caps and gowns leaving the room as Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin began his commencement address. Some students had criticised the selection of Youngkin as that year's speaker, both for his opposition to a racial literacy requirement being consider by VCU as well as for saying that encampments on college should not be allowed.

Video posted online show some of the VCU protestors chanting "disclose, divest - we will not stop, we will not rest". Many student-protesters in the US are demanding that their schools, many with massive endowments, financially cut ties with Israel.

People were clapping so loudly, members of the audience couldn't hear Youngkin speak, Sereen Haddad, a second-year VCU student who helped organise the protest, told the BBC on Saturday evening. Ms. Haddad said some 150 people marched outside the ceremony, including students who walked out.

Thirteen people, including six students, were arrested at VCU when the encampment there was cleared by police on April 29. Youngkin's speech went on as planned despite the walk-out. He later posted a message on social media congratulating graduates and did not comment on the protest.

At another commencement on Saturday, the University of California Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ opened the ceremony by acknowledging the weeks of demonstrations from protestors.

Some 20 students stood up and began waving signs, Palestinian flags and chanting, "Free Palestine" as during another speech, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, and they were later joined in chants by more graduates. In a statement, UC Berkeley said that the event continued despite being "unfortunately disrupted" and that protestors who left the ceremony did so voluntarily. No one was arrested.

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