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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, June 15, 2024

Tufts holds 2024 Commencement; protesters walk out in solidarity with Palestine

Around 100 graduates walked out of the ceremony to demand that Tufts divest from Israeli companies.

walkout

Graduates led chants outside on Packard Avenue after leaving the ceremony.

Undeterred by rain, families and guests of the Class of 2024 turned out to Tufts’ 168th commencement ceremony on Sunday. After opening remarks by University President Sunil Kumar, students heard from this year’s keynote speaker, Durham University chancellor Fiona Hill.

“The future of higher education in the United States is now at stake,” Hill said during her address. “The current upheaval on college campuses over issues of war and peace, social change and free speech is colliding with election year politics.”

Shortly after the start of the ceremony, around 100 students walked out and assembled outside the event gates, leading chants and demanding that Tufts disclose its financial holdings and divest from Israeli companies. The protest continued for approximately an hour, according to an Instagram post by Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine.

“Although a small group of protesters walked out of the ceremony during the processional, before the speaking program began, and chanted at a distance, the celebration proceeded on time and as planned. We’re pleased that our community was able to recognize the accomplishments of the Class of 2024,” Patrick Collins, executive director of media relations, wrote in a statement.

Earlier in the semester, protesters pledged to maintain a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on the Academic Quad until the university agreed to meet with organizers and heed calls for divestment from Israeli companies. The university threatened to take legal measures against protesters remaining on the quad, citing plans to prepare the area for commencement. However, after several meetings between protesters and administrators, students took down the encampment on May 3 without reaching a deal with the university. Today, protesters asserted that “there will be no business as usual” while walking out of the ceremony.

Hill did not directly address the walkout but did mention the Israel-Hamas war. 

A foreign intelligence adviser, Hill encouraged graduates to vote in a pivotal election year and to work to expand access to education.

“We’re all privileged to graduate from college and with this privilege comes responsibility,” she said. “What you all do now with your degree is not just for you but for everyone else in the future.”

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Courtesy Alonso Nichols / Tufts University

Fiona Hill delivers the Commencement 2024 address on May 19, 2024.