A student holds a Palestinian scarf as others attend the New York University’s graduation ceremony at Yankee Stadium, in the Bronx borough of New York City.—Reuters
A student holds a Palestinian scarf as others attend the New York University’s graduation ceremony at Yankee Stadium, in the Bronx borough of New York City.—Reuters

WASHINGTON: In May, graduation ceremonies across the US are not only celebrations of academic achievement, but also stages for impassioned protests echoing the frustrations of many students.

Pro-Palestine demonstrations left a profound mark on campuses nationwide as graduates marched up and down, expressing their discontent with both the Biden administration’s stance and their universities’ pro-Israeli policies.

Despite the disruptions and arrests of thousands, the majority persevered to receive their degrees, making May a month of both academic milestones and activism.

On Thursday, unionized student workers within the University of California (UC) system overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike in response to the use of force in dismantling student encampments.

With nearly 300,000 students, the UC system stands as one of the largest in the nation, boasting 10 campuses including Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz.

At Harvard University, the Graduate Students Union lodged a federal complaint against the institution, alleging surveillance and retaliation targeting their protest activities.

Also on Thursday, a judge in Rhode Island made a noteworthy decision, rejecting trespassing charges against 41 Brown University protesters. In a statement, the judge remarked, “I think this is a reflection of what nonviolent and peaceful resistance, frankly, is supposed to look like.”

The actions signify a growing wave of discontent and activism within academic communities across the United States over the Palestinian issue. They also reflect the growing dissatisfaction with the handling of student protests and the perceived infringement upon their rights.

The federal complaint filed by the Harvard Graduate Students Union suggests a broader concern regarding institutional responses to student activism and protest. The judge’s decision highlights a judicial acknowledgment of the importance of nonviolent and peaceful forms of resistance.

On Thursday, police evicted pro-Palestinian students from a lecture hall at the University of California, Irvine.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2024

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