2024 commencement exercises begin at Yankee Stadium

At NYU’s 191st commencement exercises — President Linda Mills’ first as head of the university — this year’s 22,000 graduates filled the stands of Yankee Stadium as rain fell from above. 

The May 15 ceremony comes amid a particularly turbulent year for Mills, during which she has faced both heavy criticism of her approach to pro-Palestinian demonstrations — including the authorization of student and faculty arrests — and pressure to do more to curb antisemitism on campus. Pro-Palestinian protesters have continued to organize demonstrations at NYU events, and called for a walkout during commencement on social media.

The ceremony opened with a performance of “New York, New York” by students of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, followed by a procession led by faculty and university administrators where representatives from each school carried banners to the center of the field. Georgina Dopico — who has been NYU’s interim provost for nearly two years — delivered the opening pronouncement following the processions.

Chair of the board of trustees Evan Chesler then addressed the outgoing class and their guests as the board’s leader for the first time this year

“As the Chair of NYU’s board of trustees, and as a proud two-time alumnus and scholarship recipient of NYU, it is my privilege to welcome you, along with your family and friends, to Yankee Stadium,” Chesler said. “I urge you to reflect on your own moments of discovery and connection during your time at NYU.”

During the presentation of honorary degrees to this year’s recipients — Nobel Prize-winning diplomacy expert Ouided Bouchamaoui, Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Katalin Karikó and commencement speaker Martha Minow — graduates booed as Mills began to speak.

Mills followed Samuel Fung, this year’s student speaker and a graduate of the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, who addressed Israel’s ongoing siege in Gaza and the Russia-Ukraine war in his speech.

“Globally, we are facing climate change, systemic socioeconomic inequalities and of course the devastating humanitarian crises emerging out of military conflicts,” Fung said. “In Ukraine, Palestine, Israel, but also in places that many of us aren’t talking about: Yemen, Sudan, Myanmar, the list goes on.”

Minow, who is a human rights law expert and the former dean of Harvard Law School, then addressed this year’s graduating class.

“Work against injustice; don’t demonize your adversaries,” Minnow said. “Can both views be right? For me, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s observation helps. He said, ‘The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still be able to function.’”

Following Minow’s commencement address, Mills gave a speech which was met with boos from the crowd and dozens of students walking out of the stadium in protest. 

“Let’s try a thought experiment: Think of someone from whom you might normally shy away, or with whom you might not usually agree,” Mills said in her speech. “What would it look like to stretch and to bridge, to learn from those you might otherwise judge, even reject. 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.”

The students who exited the stadium gathered outside its entrances, chanting “NYU, you can’t hide, you’re abetting genocide” and “Linda, Linda what do you say, how many students did you arrest today?” Security guards formed a barricade separating the demonstration from the stadium’s exit and around a dozen New York City Police Department officers surrounded it.

After Mills’ speech, Tisch alumni Brittney Johnson and Carla Stickler performed an excerpt from the Broadway show “Wicked.” Mills then presented the University Medal to this year’s recipients, Tisch professor Susan Hilferty as well as Johnson and Stickler, both of whom have acted in “Wicked.”

Deans from each of the university’s schools then presented diplomas to graduates on behalf of the degree candidates in their programs. Following the presentation of the degrees, Dopico opened the Ceremony of the Torch. Torchbearer Anthony Grieco, associate dean at the Grossman School of Medicine, passed the torch to the youngest baccalaureate degree candidate, Emily Bustrum, a 19-year-old Gallatin graduate. While holding the torch, Bustrum pulled a Palestinian flag from under her stole after Mills conferred the degrees.

“Graduates, you have now joined the ranks of NYU alumni, who for nearly two centuries have shared their knowledge and used their talents to benefit humanity,” Mills said in her closing remarks. “We know you will continue this tradition, embodying the words of our motto: perstare et praestare, to persevere and excel.”

A university spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Update, May 15, 2:31 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional events from NYU’s 2024 commencement exercises.

Contact Bruna Horvath, Carmo Moniz, Dharma Niles and Yezen Saadah at news@nyunews.com.

This story 2024 commencement exercises begin at Yankee Stadium appeared first on Washington Square News.

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