College students lament interrupted and canceled commencement ceremonies due to anti-Israel unrest

Several Jewish university undergraduate students, many of whom had already experienced 2020 COVID-19 high school graduation cancellations, didn’t have the college graduation ceremony they had hoped for amid a wave of anti-Israel unrest on campuses nationwide. Students who spoke to Fox News Digital shared their experiences over the last few weeks, ending with abrupt commencement cancellations and surprise anti-Israel protests during ceremonies. Yola Ashkenazie, a recent Barnard College of Columbia University graduate, told Fox News Digital, “It has just been theatrics that are completely unnecessary,” when asked about the female graduate who marched across the stage at the School of Social Work commencement ceremony and tore up her diploma in an act of protest. CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY-LINKED NETWORK BEHIND ‘WELL-FUNDED’ ANTI-ISRAEL CAMPUS PROTESTS, GROUP SAYS”They have really soured the experience of me and many others at Columbia. At the end of the day, Columbia is a place of learning. It’s a place of fruitful debate, and it hasn’t been a place of learning … over the past few weeks,” Ashkenazie said.”A couple of students have posted photos of me online, holding an Israeli flag sort of like in a way to intimidate me or cyberbully me and that’s been quite unnerving.”At the University of Southern California (USC), recent master of science and green technologies graduate Mark Rayant’s commencement ceremony was canceled due to anti-Israel demonstrators that had taken over the campus.JEWISH STUDENT DEFIES ANTI-ISRAEL RADICALS WHO ‘STALKED’ HIM ON CALIFORNIA CAMPUS: WON’T BE ‘SILENCED’The university noted that individual school commencement ceremonies, doctoral hooding ceremonies and other celebrations and activities were being held on separate dates, though it warned students and their families to “allow more time” to get to their commencements due to heightened security measures.The announcement came as USC faced intense backlash in April for barring its valedictorian, Muslim biomedical engineering student Asna Tabassum, from speaking at the commencement ceremony over safety concerns after her critics accused her of promoting anti-Israel rhetoric on social media. “So, they definitely shouldn’t have done that, because that made things really, really scary on campus,” Rayant said of USC’s decision to cancel commencement. “And the other thing I should mention is that because of their submission to these agitators, it really harmed every student’s ability to study and to get to their classes.”They have a playbook,” Rayant said. “It’s well documented that these people have been distributed materials that are essentially anarchist cookbooks.”Rayant said from his experience doing humanitarian work in Israel, “the real legitimate Palestinian people who are struggling through this,” are not the “people who are out screaming for destruction and tearing things down.”They understand the reality of the situation. They don’t want the war either. They don’t want the violence. People who have an actual stake in the conflict are likely to be the ones who want the most reasonable solutions.”Isabel Allard, a recent business administration graduate from the University of Michigan, told Fox News Digital that her commencement ceremony was also disrupted by a group of anti-Israel protesters who orchestrated a protest in the middle of the ceremony. They were greeted by a chorus of boos from the thousands in attendance.  Law enforcement confronted the protesters and pushed them toward the back, where they stayed for the rest of the event, but Allard said students “couldn’t hear anything on stage.”COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY STUDENT IN HANDCUFFS RIPS UP DIPLOMA ON COMMENCEMENT STAGE IN ACT OF PROTEST”Our grad speaker was Brad Meltzer. He gave an amazing speech. I didn’t hear a single word of it. They were chanting there the entire ceremony,” Allard said. Prior to the ceremony, Allard said, “we were kind of holding our breath for the very worst.” Alanna Peykar, a recent economics graduate from Duke University, shared a similar experience to Allard. Peykar’s commencement speaker, Jerry Seinfeld, was interrupted by anti-Israel agitators.”They were echoing throughout the stadiums, and they were so loud that our president had to pause because we just weren’t able to hear him,” Peykar told Fox News Digital. Peykar called the experience “deeply disappointing” as Palestinian flags were waved by protesters shouting slogans and chants. “It’s simply because he’s a Jewish man,” Peykar said of Seinfeld. “It is an American school. If there’s any flag that should be waving at our commencement, it should be an American flag. Their protests do absolutely nothing to actually help anyone.”Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.
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