NYU graduates stage pro-Palestinian walkout at Yankee Stadium commencement

NEW YORK — Dozens of pro-Palestine protesters walked out of New York University’s main graduation ceremony at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday amid persistent antiwar demonstrations at the Greenwich Village school.

The NYU Palestine Solidarity Coalition, a coalition of various student groups, had promoted an “autonomously planned” walkout on social media, as the newly minted university president Linda Mills was scheduled to deliver her first commencement address.

Graduates in keffiyehs painted their hands red to protest Israel’s military action in Gaza and what they see as NYU’s complicity in failing to divest from the Jewish state.

“No graduation as usual,” the student groups said in an Instagram post.

As students walked out, Mills introduced a musical performance from Wicked, which involved many NYU alumni and she described as a story about two formidable forces at odds who ultimately unite, “appreciating that each offers the other something to learn.”

“Today, as we face a world of war and polarization, this is as important as ever — the enduring desire to be open to those most unlike us. And this is the lesson of Wicked,” the university president said.

Spokespeople for NYU did not immediately return a request for comment, but told a student newspaper the disruption was minimal.

“During a joyful 2 1/2 hours for 40,000 grads and guests, I observed a few passing moments of booing by a tiny fraction of the crowd,” NYU spokesperson John Beckman wrote in a statement to student newspaper Washington Square News.

“It had no impact on the proceedings, which carried on very well, and the overwhelming majority of the attendees seemed to enjoy the Commencement Exercises very much.”

Last week, about 20 pro-Palestinian protesters disrupted the main campus library for a few hours at the height of final exams season, unfurling banners and demanding divestment.

University officials have twice summoned the NYPD to clear Gaza solidarity encampments, resulting in close to 150 arrests at NYU since April 22.

NYU’s main commencement came on the heels of a series of smaller graduations at Columbia University, after college officials cancelled the university-wide ceremony. While school-level celebrations have continued, some have featured disruptions and demonstrations, including a social work graduate who ripped their diploma folder in half on stage.

“They stayed strong. They just had tight security and said, the rest of the graduates is more important,” NYU graduate Zack said. “So I think it’s a credit to the president and the administration.”

For many of the undergraduates who finished their degrees this semester, Wednesday marked their first major graduation after many high school ceremonies were cancelled in 2020.

“We started during the pandemic. And so, we’re so happy to be having a graduation for real,” said Dakota Bobadilla, a drama major from San Francisco, whose family flew across the country for the ceremony.

“It’s a little scary going into the future,” another graduate, Ella Webb, said as she starts a job as a grant writer while she auditions in New York. “But I’m really excited to be here.”