UNC-Chapel Hill Holds 2024 Graduation Amid Protests and Turmoil

UNC Chapel Hill held its 2024 graduation ceremony despite ongoing campus turmoil and anti-war protests. Over 6,700 undergraduates participated, with keynote speaker NASA astronaut Zena Cardman and Doctoral Hooding Ceremony speaker Dr. Angeli Achrekar.

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UNC-Chapel Hill Holds 2024 Graduation Amid Protests and Turmoil

UNC-Chapel Hill Holds 2024 Graduation Amid Protests and Turmoil

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill held its 2024 graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 11, despite ongoing campus turmoil and anti-war protests. Over 6,700 undergraduates participated in the commencement at Kenan Stadium, which featured keynote speaker NASA astronaut Zena Cardman and Doctoral Hooding Ceremony speaker Dr. Angeli Achrekar.

Hours before the graduation ceremony, pro-Palestinian demonstrators rallied at South Building, leaving red handprints on the building with the message "UNC has blood on its hands." Another group set up a tent encampment by the Bell Tower, replacing a previous one that was broken up by UNC police two weeks prior. During the ceremony, a handful of graduating seniors briefly raised a Palestinian flag, receiving a mixed reaction from the audience.

Why this matters: Theprotests and turmoil surrounding the graduation ceremony reflect the broader tensions and divisions on college campuses, highlighting the need for institutions to address complex social and political issues. As higher education institutions navigate these challenges, they must balance freedom of speech with maintaining a safe and inclusive environment for all students.

Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts acknowledged the challenges faced by the Class of 2024 in his remarks, including missing their high school graduation due to pandemic lockdowns. Board of Trustees Chairman John Preyer called for a round of applause for the university police department.

Commencement speaker Zena Cardman, a UNC-Chapel Hill alumna and NASA astronaut who will command the SpaceX Crew-9 mission to the International Space Station in August, delivered a mostly apolitical speech. "You made it through a pandemic, lockdowns, tragedy and upheaval, and you still worked together in advocacy for greater causes and for those who do not have a voice," Cardman told the graduates. "You have made injustice your enemy, you lift each other up, (and) that is a Carolina legacy I am honored to be part of."

At the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony, Dr. Angeli Achrekar, a Gillings School of Global Public Health alumna who managed a $6 billion-a-year program across 55 countries at the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), told doctoral graduates to expect a life that unfolds in new and challenging ways. She emphasized the importance of compassion, generosity, and courage in the face of adversity.

The commencement ceremony concluded with fireworks, and despite the tumultuous atmosphere, the event ended on a celebratory note. "Class of 2024, I am so proud of you," class, celebrates Cardman said in her closing remarks. "Part of your story will always be here, and I cannot wait to see where the journey takes you. Congratulations, and go Heels!"

Key Takeaways

  • UNC Chapel Hill held its 2024 graduation ceremony despite campus turmoil and protests.
  • Pro-Palestinian demonstrators rallied before the ceremony, leaving red handprints on a building.
  • NASA astronaut Zena Cardman was the keynote speaker, delivering a mostly apolitical speech.
  • The ceremony concluded with fireworks, ending on a celebratory note despite tensions.
  • The event highlighted the need for universities to balance free speech with a safe environment.