Universities brace for possible disruptions at commencement ceremonies

The next chapter of campus protests may soon begin, with universities across the US preparing for possible disruptions at commencement ceremonies.

Four universities rocked by pro-Palestinian protests will hold graduation events this weekend.

Many others, including Columbia University, have scheduled ceremonies throughout the month and in June.

Universities are working to enhance security while protesters contemplate walkouts and other possible actions.

Protesters set up camps and staged campus demonstrations to call on their universities to cut ties with Israel over the war in Gaza.

Many colleges responded by calling police, leading to thousands of arrests.

There have been demonstrations at nearly 140 institutions across 45 states and Washington DC since the protests started at Columbia last month, according to a BBC tally.

Now, students on at least once campus are planning to protest at graduation ceremonies.

University of Michigan, Indiana University, Ohio State University, and the University of Connecticut – all of which have experienced demonstrations over the last two weeks – have commencement events on May 4 and 5.

University of Michigan officials have announced plans for designated protest areas, where banners and flags will be prohibited and protesters will be subject to security screenings.

The commencement will be watched over by volunteers who will “respond to disruptions, beginning with warnings”, according to the university’s website.

Alifa Chowdhury, of the Tahrir Coalition protest group, declined to comment on whether any disruptions were planned. She said the university had “completely ignored” offers to negotiate.

“It makes sense that they have been implementing strategies and training staff to make sure protests aren’t happening,” she said.

IU Divest and the Palestine Solidarity Committee, whose camp at Indiana University was cleared by police late last month, have called for a walk-out at graduation events.

“Make your pro-Palestine stance clear at the ‘Liberated Zone’ instead,” reads a post on Instagram, referencing a protest area at the university’s campus in Bloomington. “Join us in wearing your keffiyeh along with your cap and gown.” (BBC)

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