canada africa partner reservation Security tight at CT colleges for graduation ceremonies amid protests in Gaza

Security tight at CT colleges for graduation ceremonies amid protests in Gaza

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In Connecticut and across the country, college campuses have been disrupted by student protests in support of Palestinians in the Israel-Gaza war just before graduation ceremonies this month.

However, universities across Connecticut have plans in place to avoid problems, though they don’t expect any disruptions to those graduation ceremonies.

The protests focused on universities’ investments in military contractors that sell weapons to Israel. They recorded arrests of 25 students at the University of Connecticut when students refused to demolish an encampment in Storrs.

With his retired number #34 on a banner behind him, former professional basketball player Ray Allen, left, holds up his phone to take a photo with fellow Cromwell graduate Samuel Jacinto, second from left, and others who just graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences during commencement at UConn in Storrs, Sunday, May 7, 2023.
With his retired number #34 on a banner behind him, former professional basketball player Ray Allen, left, holds up his phone to take a photo with fellow Cromwell graduate Samuel Jacinto, second from left, and others who just graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences during commencement at UConn in Storrs, Sunday, May 7, 2023.

Bee Yale University in New Haven, police cleared an encampment without arrests after threatening emergency suspensions. Students were arrested however, in an earlier encampment and after a later march.

Wesleyan University in Middletown allowed an encampment to continue. Student protesters there have been peaceful.

Despite the unrest at Storrs, university spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said in an email: “UConn activities will continue as planned, including commencement ceremonies.”

UConn scheduled 17 graduation ceremoniesMostly this weekend at Gampel Pavilion, the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts and the UConn Student Union theater, Reitz said. Access is strictly regulated, with metal detectors and physical tickets required for entry.

“Enhanced security planning is also taking place, including additional police and security personnel, and the creation of buffer zones around the entrances and exits of the sites,” Reitz said.

“These and other measures are intended to help ensure a safe and festive atmosphere for the students who have worked so hard for their well-deserved degrees, and for the families there to support and encourage them,” she said.

“Each year, we plan all aspects of Commencement weekend to provide a safe, enjoyable experience for our graduates, their families, faculty and staff,” Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart said in an email. with the security team as they consider anything that could hinder a smooth and successful celebration of our graduates.”

Yale will hold its Class Day starting on May 19 and 20. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy will be the Class Day speaker.

Paul Steinmetz, spokesperson for Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, said there have been no demonstrations on the Danbury campus.

The Palestinian issue has added “another aspect that we are considering” regarding graduation, “but so far our plans are moving forward as they are,” Steinmetz said.

“We protect freedom of expression and of course safety, but we also want graduating students and their families to be able to enjoy the ceremony that the students and their families have worked so hard for, and that is something that is also on our minds,” he says. said Steinmetz.

Western will hold its graduation ceremony on May 12 Total mortgage arena in Bridgeport. “Any demonstration outside the arena we will be able to weather if there is anything,” he said. He said he expects 650 of the 850 eligible graduates to attend.

“It’s about students graduating and their families,” he said. “We will be able to control everything that happens, and again, we don’t really expect anything.”

Ryan Quigley, spokesperson for Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, the university said May 14 XL center in Hartford “is extremely scripted and so there aren’t really any opportunities for surprises.”

The senior class president will share her speech with the government, he said. Students may be told not to bring posters with them when they walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.

“Luckily, security for us is handled by the XL Center, so it’s just like being at a concert,” Quigley said. “It’s not something the university is heavily involved in planning. … Anyone attending Commencement will of course go through the security protocols that the XL Center has in place.

“As far as our students go, we certainly want them to have a great time, their families all to come, and hopefully the XL Center is prepared if there are protests outside.”

In addition to Eastern’s graduation ceremonies, the XL Center will host the University of Saint Joseph on May 11 and the University of Hartford on May 12.

Ben Weiss, general manager of the XL Center, said he is working with the universities to find out if there are specific problems.

“We are obviously aware of everything that is happening in the world,” he said. “Our preparatory work to get coordination with the university ahead of the event is obviously tailored to their requirements, but part of that progress, especially this year, is to really understand if there are any issues and concerns from the standpoint of the university that we must be informed of this.”

This year is paying extra attention to safety, Weiss said.

“If we do something different, we are of course aware of that. There is a greater awareness of what is happening in the world,” he said. “So I would say, yes, there is an extra level of awareness, an extra level of preparedness from our standpoint.”

As with all events at the XL Center, everyone will pass through magnetometers upon entry and there will be security checks at all entries, Weiss said. Police and security teams will be present at all entrances and throughout the centre, he said.

“For us, it’s a celebration of graduating students,” Weiss said. “We want to ensure that they have a fantastic experience. They are not only students, but also guests. Just like we do for any event, we work with HPD (Hartford Police Department), we work with other local law enforcement, basically regional law enforcement agencies. And these events will be no different.”

Jodi Latina, spokeswoman for Central Connecticut State University in New Britain said, “We expect all of our students and families to have a joyful and safe event to celebrate the hard work of our graduates. To this end, the university has standard operating security procedures in place for annual events such as graduation.

“We are fully prepared,” she said. “If any individual or group actually actively interrupts or disrupts the normal flow of the ceremonies, it is a violation of the Student Code of Conduct and System Office policy. Individuals who violate these rules may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including expulsion from the University. These individuals may also be arrested for criminal trespass.”

Molly Polk, spokeswoman for the University of Hartford, said the school “is exceptionally proud of the way our students and community have respectfully engaged in dialogue and action together. We do not expect any disruptions at the start. As every year, our Public Safety team is working with the XL Center and the Hartford Police Department on a comprehensive safety and security plan.

A spokesperson for Wesleyan University said: “While we have made no changes to our commencement plans at this time, we continue to monitor events on campus. The safety of our community members comes first. As we approach commencement on May 26, we will continue to evaluate the campus climate and respond accordingly.”

Allison O’Leary, spokeswoman for Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, via email: “As a regional public university with a large proportion of first-generation students, providing our graduates with a safe and celebratory environment to honor their achievements with loved ones is a top priority. We continue to prepare our start safety plan, as we do every year, in view of current events and will adapt accordingly if necessary.”

Stacey Sobel, Connecticut Regional Director League against defamationsaid she believes “Connecticut schools are doing the best they can in a difficult situation, trying to balance fundamental rights of free speech with protecting everyone.”

Sobel said the ADL has sent guidelines to campuses on how to conduct commencement exercises peacefully.

“We are calling on all colleges to take clear and decisive action now to ensure graduation ceremonies run smoothly and students feel welcome, safe and celebrated,” she said.

“It includes ensuring close coordination with security and law enforcement. Make sure there are clear consequences when behavior on campus violates school policy. We are now reviewing and strengthening protocols to reduce the risk of students interfering with graduate rights on campus,” she said.

Sobel said university presidents must clearly condemn anti-Semitism. “The entire campus community needs to hear loud and clear that anti-Semitic acts or acts of hate do not align with the values ​​of their university,” she said.

Ed Stannard can be reached at [email protected]. Kenneth R. Gosselin can be reached at kgosselin@courant.com.