Duke Students Walked Out During Jerry Seinfeld’s Speech at Graduation Ceremonies Amid Protests

Enough is enough.

That’s the message from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia to the University of Chicago as U.S. colleges took a hard line against student protesters, resorting to arrests, suspensions and threats of expulsion to subdue unrest sparked by the Israel-Hamas war.

Graduation season is underway and families are descending on campuses for the festivities, raising the stakes for administrators seeking to ensure public safety. Smaller demonstrations by pro-Palestinian activists went ahead at weekend commencements, including at Duke University and at the University of California at Berkeley.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld avoided addressing the protests at Duke, where about 30 students chanting “Free Palestine” and waving flags walked out as the university president introduced him as keynote speaker. Seinfeld, who has publicly backed Israel since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas militants, took a dig at Harvard University.

student walkout at Duke university commencement as Jerry Seinfeld’s speech is announced. his introduction by university president is being drowned out by “free free Palestine” chants ❤️‍🔥🇵🇸 — the great clown snorman (@iamschvitzing)

“You’re never going to believe this, but Harvard used to be a great place to go to school — now it’s Duke,” Seinfeld told the crowd in Durham, North Carolina, where Duke awarded almost 7,000 degrees, including an honorary doctor of arts to the comedian.

A pro-Palestinian student camp remained on Harvard’s campus into the weekend, contrasting with MIT and Penn which cleared last week.

At the , a small group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators emerged during commencement ceremonies at California Memorial Stadium on Saturday, waving flags and chanting. A university spokesperson said the protesters left the stadium voluntarily, with no violence or arrests, and the ceremony proceeded as planned.

Two thousand miles away, a handful of students held a largely silent protest at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Camp Randall Stadium. No arrests were made, the Associated Press reported.

“A small number of the thousands of students who attended Saturday’s commencement chose to express themselves, but the ceremony itself was not interrupted,” UW Madison spokesman John Lucas said by email.

Divestment hardliners

Responses to the turmoil have varied among schools, though most of the richest colleges have signaled they won’t cave to demands to divest from companies with ties to Israel and have cleared student protest camps.

Columbia, where the encampments began, canceled its main university-wide graduation ceremony last week after protests culminated with a police raid and more than 100 arrests after dozens of people barricaded themselves inside a university building.

The University of Southern California hosted a scaled-down ceremony on Thursday, a far cry from the big commencement that usually brings 65,000 people to the Los Angeles school—after over her social media posts on the Middle East. Comedians Jimmy Kimmel and Will Ferrell chimed in with pre-recorded messages to the graduates.

MIT gave four warnings that protesters would face arrest if they didn’t depart a nearly two-week encampment that ended Friday morning with the arrest of 10 protesters. President Sally Kornbluth said she had “no choice but to remove such a high-risk flashpoint at the very center of our campus.”

The University of Chicago declared the “intractable and inflexible” aspects of the demands by protesters incompatible with the its principle of institutional neutrality and had a student camp cleared last week after nine days.

Harvard, which began suspending students Friday, has also signaled that administrators are losing patience with protesters who have set up tents at Harvard Yard, where a with more than 30,000 people is scheduled for May 23.

Campuses across the U.S. erupted in protests after Israel’s military assault on Gaza, which followed the attack on Israelis by Hamas militants who infiltrated from Gaza. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by the U.S. and the European Union. Protesters’ demands include colleges divesting from entities related to Israel, which they say are held in college endowments.

George Washington University in Washington, a school of 26,000 that became the target of politically charged recriminations over pro-Palestinian protests on its campus, has kept its commencement on the schedule for May 19.

People who disrupt the event on the National Mall in the nation’s capital will be asked to leave or “they will be removed by law enforcement,” according to the university.