Breaking Campus News. Launching Media Careers.
Pro-Palestinian protesters at UMich disrupt, cut short honors convocation

Students being honored expressed frustration with disruption 

A crowd of pro-Palestinian protesters invaded and disrupted an honors convocation for 1,800 students held at the University of Michigan on Sunday, forcing the event to end early and abruptly.

Most of the ceremony had proceeded normally, but when President Santa Ono began to speak, the roughly 100 protesters began to parade around and make noise, drowning him out.

They were protesting in favor of divestment from companies that do business with Israel to halt what they call “genocide,” referring to Israel’s military actions in Gaza in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre of 1,200 civilians.

A video of some of the protest posted on Reddit shows the demonstrating students stand up in the audience and begin yelling while holding aloft signs. They chanted “Ono, Ono, you can’t hide, you are funding genocide.”

The Michigan Daily student newspaper reported the protest forced the event to be “cut short,” although all the awards had been handed out by the time the interruption began.

There are no reports of any arrests nor talk of punishment for the disrupters, however in statements to the Daily and the Detroit News, campus spokesperson Colleen Mastony said university leaders will not be so lenient in the future.

“We recently reiterated our commitment to free speech and free expression with the adoption of a statement of principles that is guided by the letter and spirit of the First Amendment. Although we support students’ right to protest, such rights are not limitless,” she told the Daily.

“Disrupting speakers and events is not protected speech and is a clear violation of university policy. More than 1,800 students who earned honors were registered to attend Honors Convocation. The ceremony was almost complete and all student awards had been given out by the time the protest began.”

Mastony told the News: “These protesters intruded upon a joyous moment and prevented students and families from completing the celebration of hard-won achievements. We are reviewing what happened on Sunday and will adjust our plans, as needed, in preparation for future events.”

The University of Michigan has been the site for much unrest regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict. In November, 40 student protesters were arrested after several forced their way into an administrative building, The College Fix reported at the time.

The same group behind the November melee was responsible for Sunday’s disruption, the TAHRIR Coalition, which represents dozens of mostly left-leaning and progressive student groups unified in support of the Palestinian cause.

“We disrupted the honors convocation at our school as another way to call attention to the ongoing genocide in Gaza and our university’s direct relationship to Israel,” protester Tarana Sharma told the Detroit News.

“Our Board of Regents has funneled $6 billion from our endowment to Israel and has paid for the murder of over 32,000 Palestinians. They have shown zero accountability. In fact, they continue to target Palestinian students and make examples out of them for simply voicing feelings of frustration, hopelessness, fear, instead of protecting pro-Palestinian students.”

However, there is no evidence to back up Sharma’s assertions.

Mastony told the News the university has in place a nearly 20-year old policy “that shields the university’s investment from political pressures.”

“Much of the money invested through the university’s endowment, for example, is donor funding given to provide long-term financial support for designated purposes,” Mastony stated. ”This policy was reaffirmed by the Board of Regents in 2017 and there has been no change in this position.”

Sunday’s ceremony was the 101th Honors Convocation for students who have earned all As for two or more terms, achieved a 3.5 GPA, or were freshmen in the top five percent of their class.

Several students expresses frustration with the protest in interviews with the Daily and Detroit News.

“It just ruined the whole day,” student Sal DiMaggio told the News. “This day was supposed to be recognition of my hard work, my achievement throughout the semesters and the other students as well. It just took away from that.”

Another student told the Daily: “I very much support people sticking up for their opinion. I just think the manner in which this was done was disruptive of people’s achievements and taking away from something that people deserved.”

When asked about the disruption, Ono gave a tepid response to the Daily that did not condemn the disruption but instead focused on how it hurt the students being honored.

“I understand that the current geopolitical situation in the Middle East is very difficult. … It’s very sad that it happened at the Honors Convocation because I know many of the students personally, and I know many of their parents. It was something they were looking forward to, and their parents were looking forward to celebrating their children’s achievements. It was clear from watching their reactions that they were saddened by it. Some were shaken,” he said.

MORE: Forty pro-Palestinian protesters arrested at University of Michigan

IMAGE: Reddit screenshot

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

Please join the conversation about our stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, MeWe, Rumble, Gab, Minds and Gettr.