Hundreds of students walk out of Harvard University commencement ceremony after seniors banned from receiving their degrees

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1,500 graduate students at University of California Santa Cruz, members of the UAW walked out on strike last week to defend the speech rights of Palestine advocates

Hundreds of students have walked out of Harvard University’s commencement ceremony after the school barred over a dozen pro-Palestinian seniors from receiving their degrees last Thursday.

The walk-out took place at the American university in Cambridge Massachusetts, with the participants chanting slogans such as ‘Free, free Palestine’ and ‘Let them walk’.
They were referring to 13 Harvard undergraduate students, who had been denied diplomas for taking part in a pro-Palestine protest encampment.
Student speaker Shruthi Kumar said: ‘This semester our freedom of speech and our expressions of solidarity became punishable.’
Kumar said she had to recognise ‘the 13 undergraduates in the class of 2024 who will not graduate today’, generating cheers and clapping from graduates.
She added: ‘I am deeply disappointed by the intolerance for freedom of speech and the right to civil disobedience on campus.
‘The students have spoken. The faculty have spoken. Harvard, do you hear us?’
Commencement speaker Maria Ressa, who is a journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said that ‘the campus protests are testing everyone in America’.
‘Protests give voice; they shouldn’t be silenced,’ she noted.
In a written statement, Asmer Asrar Safi, one of the 13 students blocked from graduation, said the penalty shows how far the school will go to silence the voices that challenge their donor base.
He added: ‘While we will not be returning to this school, we hope that our friends carry the liberatory legacy of the Gaza solidarity encampment alive, and strive even harder for divestment.’
In recent weeks, demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have spread across university campuses in the United States.
The walk-out from the Harvard ceremony happened after graduate students at the University of California (UC), Santa Cruz walked off their jobs and went on strike as part of a system-wide protest against a public university they say has violated the speech rights of pro-Palestinian advocates.
United Auto Workers Local 4811 represents 48,000 graduate students who work as teaching assistants, tutors, researchers and other academic employees on the 10-campus UC system.
Organisers said the campuses will not strike all at once, opting instead for rolling strikes, to protest the arrests and forcible ejection by police of union members who participated in demonstrations calling for an end to the war in Gaza.
Rebecca Gross, a UC Santa Cruz graduate student in literature and union leader, said at least 1,500 people were on strike and had no plans to return to work until the union reaches a deal with the university.
Students and researchers are not teaching, grading or working in their labs, and they are withholding data, she said.
Gross said: ‘Police were unleashed and given the go-ahead to arrest protesters,’ at the Los Angeles, San Diego and Irvine campuses.’
University officials say the strike is unlawful and in violation of the union’s contract, which prohibits work stoppages.
Both sides have filed unfair labour practice complaints with the California Public Employment Relations Board.
The union is demanding amnesty for all academic employees, students and faculty who face disciplinary action or arrest due to the protests.
It’s also seeking divestment from UC’s investments in weapons makers, contractors and companies aiding Israel in its war against Hamas, among other issues.
The night before, police had waited to intervene as counter-protesters attacked the pro-Palestinian encampment, causing injuries. California Governor Gavin Newsom denounced the delay.
Scott Hernandez-Jason, an assistant vice chancellor with UC Santa Cruz, said afternoon classes are being conducted remotely today.
‘Our primary goal is to minimise the disruptive impact, especially given the many educational and research challenges that have affected students and researchers in recent years,’ he said in an email.
‘Academic and operational continuity is essential to the University of California’s education and research mission and a core responsibility to our students.’

  • Elsewhere, in the United States over 200 Webasto workers at the Pilot Road plant in Plymouth, Michigan have voted to ratify their first contract by an overwhelming 96 per cent yes vote, winning raises of up to 51 per cent over three years, among other gains.

The workers, who make convertible soft tops for GM, Ford, and Stellantis for the German auto supplier, organised in 2023 with UAW Local 3000, Region 1A.
They are the first Webasto workers in the United States to secure a collective bargaining agreement.
‘The company was mistreating us and doing whatever they wanted to do to the employees for years.
Jammy Samuel, a Webasto Pilot Road UAW Local 3000 member on the Jeep Line. said: ‘People have been here for more than 3 years without a raise, which is unacceptable.
‘We had enough. This contract will help protect us.  The cost of living has gone up, so, the pay should go up as well.
[‘It’s that simple. Moving forward with this contract will help not only on our wages, but will help fairness and equality for everyone.
‘I’m very excited about this contract, as are the rest of my co-workers at Webasto.’
Many workers will receive a $9-an-hour raise over the life of the contract, on top of a $2,250 ratification bonus.

  • Drivers at Imperial Dade have voted overwhelmingly, by a more than 4-1 margin, to join Teamsters Local 385 in Orlando. The Florida workers are seeking higher wages, job security, and affordable, quality health care.

Federico Rincon, a driver at Imperial Dade who served on the worker-led organising committee: ‘It is my pleasure to announce that we did it! After months of working profusely and having clear goals, we won 34 to 8!
Drivers demand fair pay for an honest day of work.’
Rincon and his co-workers overcame a vicious anti-union campaign from management to win strong representation on the job.
This is the Teamsters first organising win at Imperial Dade.
Walt Howard, President of Local 385 said: ‘These drivers reminded management that they are the ones who make the company successful.’
Tom Erickson, Director of the Teamsters Warehouse Division said: ‘Our momentum in the warehousing industry is unstoppable.’
Members of Teamsters Local 533 have overwhelmingly ratified a new five-year collective bargaining agreement with Waste Management.
The contract covers over 250 workers who service the communities of Lyon, Storey, and Washoe counties.
Debbie Calkins, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 533 said: ‘I want to congratulate our members and the negotiating committee for their unity and perseverance, which ultimately secured such a strong contract.
‘Our members stuck together and won life-changing wage and pension increases, along with top-notch Teamsters health care benefits.’
Gary Watson, President of Local 533. said: ‘This contract is a testament to the strength of rank-and-file Teamsters and the importance of collective action.
‘It clearly demonstrates the difference between union and non-union workers and will undoubtedly serve as a stepping stone for organising other waste workers in our region.’
The new agreement provides an immediate $4 wage increase upfront and an additional $1.25 per year over the length of the contract. In addition to a substantial pay increase, the contract increases pension contributions by $1.25, secures a fair bidding process that is based on seniority, and provides first-class Teamsters health care.
Delbert Lopez, a 46-year Teamster, and Waste Management mechanic: ‘We made clear to the company that we were serious and prepared to fight for what we deserve.
‘This was my first time sitting on a negotiating committee, and I was impressed by the entire process.
‘Our unity won significantly higher wages and improved benefits for all.’