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Jess Frampton

A message for those graduating in toxic times

You might be wondering … what’s it like to be the graduation speaker on an American college campus these days? On Monday evening, I got the chance to find out.

Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, a school where I teach a class on applied geopolitics, invited me to deliver this year’s commencement speech. It was a privilege – and a challenge – that I took very seriously.

I’ve reprinted my speech below, but first, let me describe the experience.

Yes, there were protesters – of course there were. A number of students in the audience wore the keffiyeh, the scarf that has become a symbol of solidarity with Palestinians, particularly those trapped by the war in Gaza. Many brought Palestinian flags on stage with them as they collected their diplomas. More still passed out “diplomas” calling on Columbia University to divest from Israel in protest against the continuing conflict.

But not a single student walked out. Not one turned their back. When I began speaking about the war, there were rumblings in the audience for me to go into more depth. I stopped the speech briefly to assure them I intended to do just that. And then I did.

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Pro-Palestinian protesters clash with law enforcement as officials clear demonstrator encampments on UCLA's campus on May 2, 2024 in Los Angeles, CA.


From mission creep to political creep

Early today, police in riot gear moved against protest encampments at UCLA, taking down tents, arresting people, and removing demonstrators from campus. This came after similar actions on campuses ranging from Columbia to Dartmouth.

Where is this headed?

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NYPD officers arrive at Columbia University on April 30, 2024, to clear demonstrators from an occupied hall on campus.

John Lamparski/NurPhoto via Reuters

Chaos erupts overnight on US campuses. What’s next for student protesters?

Last night, hundreds of New York City Police officers entered Columbia University in riot gear, one night after students occupied a building on campus and 13 days after students pitched an encampment that threw kerosene on a student movement against the war in Gaza on college campuses nationwide.

The police came in droves through the campus gates and directly through the windows of the building that student protesters had barricaded themselves in on Monday. They swept the encampment and the occupied building, detaining protesters with zip ties. Students still on campus were told to go to their dorms or leave the premises. I found myself pushed further and further away from my school, and I watched from beyond the barricades as dozens were arrested and marched onto NYPD detainment buses.

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Pro-Palestine protesters hold a sit-in on the West Lawn of Columbia University.

Will Hull

Crisis at Columbia: Protests and arrests bring chaos to campus

Blankets, tents, Palestinian flags, signs, and scores of tired students were strewn across the South Lawn of the university's Manhattan campus. The protesters were camped there to demand Columbia’s divestment from companies with ties to Israel – but they knew they were playing a game of chicken. The night before, university administrators had warned that remaining in their “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” would result in suspensions and possible arrests. Still, they decided to stay, and some 34 hours later, police in riot gear arrived. Organizers yelled “phones out” as NYPD officers reached for their zip ties.

“I remember the collective fear, like everyone was having the same thought: ‘We’re really on our own,’” says Izel Pineda, a Barnard senior who delivered supplies to the encampment minutes before police arrived.


Chaos at Columbia University this past week started with the encampment being erected hours before President Nemat Shafik’s congressional testimony on antisemitism on Wednesday. Shafik told Congress about last autumn’s protests on campus following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants and about the incidents of antisemitism that had left many Jewish students on campus afraid to leave their dorms or attend class. She explained that the school had made progress in disciplining students, enforcing stricter protest policies, and investigating some professors.

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Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro

Hard Numbers: Colombia ceasefire, Barbie ban, Libyan crude concerns, Holland vs. Smartphones

6: The Colombian government and the ELN, the last remaining major guerrilla group in the country, said Thursday they would halt hostilities ahead of a historic six-month ceasefire meant to take effect in August. Colombia’s embattled President Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla who was elected last year as the country’s first left-wing leader, has pledged to secure “Total Peace” in a country still wracked by violence despite the 2016 peace deal signed with the FARC, the largest guerrilla group of all.
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Petro reacts after winning the referendum vote for the Historic Pact coalition in Bogota.

REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

What We're Watching: Colombian presidential frontrunner, trouble in Corsica

Left-winger Petro is Colombia’s man to beat

Gustavo Petro ran the table in Sunday’s presidential primaries, drawing more votes from his Historic Pact Party’s voters alone than the winning candidates of the other two party primaries combined. In the May 29 first-round general vote Petro, a one-time guerrilla and former mayor of Bogotá, will face off against a bevy of at least five candidates, the strongest of whom include two former mayors of Medellín, the centrist Sergio Fajardo and right-winger Federico Gutierrez. But having surpassed 40 percent in recent polls, Petro could be on track to win outright in the first round. If he did, it would be a political earthquake in a country where decades of war with Marxist guerrillas had long kept national politics firmly on the center right. Petro has called for higher taxes on the wealthiest Colombians, ambitious land reform to help peasant farmers, and wants to shutter the country’s oil industry, which accounts for half of all export revenue. The country’s traditional political and business interests are naturally alarmed — so buckle up for what will be an exceedingly nasty campaign homestretch in South America’s third-largest economy and a major US ally.

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