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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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Covering Columbia's campus protests as a student and GZERO reporter
Covering Columbia's campus protests as a student and GZERO reporter | GZERO Reports

Covering Columbia's campus protests as a student and GZERO reporter

The past few weeks of student protests, counter-protests, and police activity at Columbia have been the tensest moments the University has seen in over 50 years. What’s it like to be a student and graduating senior during this historic moment?

When GZERO writer Riley Callanan began her senior year at Barnard, the women’s college within Columbia, she never expected it would end this way: thousands of student protesters, an encampment and takeover of an administrative building, the attention of the national news media, armed police officers swarming campus, and, ultimately, a canceled graduation ceremony. Now, as she tells colleague Alex Kliment on GZERO World, instead of senior galas and grad parties, Columbia students are having intense debates over the Israel-Palestine conflict, antisemitism, and free speech.

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GZERO

Why campus protests worsen divisions, and how to mediate: Advice from Eboo Patel


Listen: On this episode of the GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer, Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith America, advocates for cooperation over division on college campuses in response to protests, highlighting the need for civil discourse and pointing out that despite some instances of violence, most campuses engage in constructive dialogue.

Whether you are for or against the protests happening across the country, one thing is clear: They've caught the world's attention. Some have escalated into violence, as seen at UCLA, Texas, and Columbia University. On the podcast, Patel discusses his efforts on over 600 college campuses to foster unity. His central message: "Cooperation is better than division."

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Israel intent on Rafah invasion despite global backlash
Israel seems intent on Rafah invasion despite global backlash | Ian Bremmer | World In :60

Israel intent on Rafah invasion despite global backlash

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

How will the international community respond to an Israeli invasion of Rafah?

Very, very badly. You see that the Israeli prime minister and War Cabinet continues to say that no matter what happens with the hostages and a potential deal, and everyone's trying to get one done at the last minute, that the intention is still very much to fight on the ground there. I don't think that's a bluff. And especially because it's supported by the entire Israeli political spectrum and the population, they believe that you've got to take out Hamas. And beyond that, there's also the concern about Hezbollah. So I think the international response is going to be very negative. It is certainly going to push back the possibility of any Saudi normalization, and it's going to lead to a lot more demonstrations and hostility against Israel in the United States and in Europe.

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Two students occupying Hamilton Hall on Columbia's Campus

Will Hull

With summer looming, where will student protesters turn next?

Columbia University is under a near-total lockdown after protesters barricaded themselves in a building and took over a second lawn on campus last night. Downtown, protesters at The New School took over Parsons School of Design, and at Yale, police were called to clear an encampment that protesters have vowed to reoccupy. Meanwhile, an NYU student has reportedly chained themself to a bench and begun a hunger strike, vowing to continue until the demands of student protesters are met.
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The view Thursday night from inside the Columbia University campus gate at 116th Street and Amsterdam in New York City.

Alex Kliment

From the inside out: Is Columbia’s campus crisis calming down?

Special report by Riley Callanan and Alex Kliment

Late Thursday night, the words “New Shafik email drop” rippled through the protest site known as the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on Columbia University’s lawns.

The protesters had been waiting to hear whether the New York Police Department was on its way, knowing that the deadline for negotiations with the administration of university President Nemat “Minouche” Shafik was rapidly approaching.

The police would not, in fact, be coming, the email said. Shortly after that news broke, student negotiators returned from talks to report that while there had not been progress on their demands to divest from Israel or give amnesty to the suspended students, they had had a small win: No new deadline to end the protests had been set. The encampment’s leaders continue to demand that Columbia’s endowment divest from any Israeli-related holdings and offer amnesty to students suspended over the protests last week.

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Flags from across the divide wave in the air over protests at Columbia University on Thursday, April 25, 2024.

Alex Kliment

Slogans of war

Where do we draw the line between free speech and a safe space? That’s the core question posed by the protests and the arrests raging on campuses right now over the Hamas-Israel war.

Of the many complex, painful issues contributing to the tension stemming from the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre and the ongoing Israeli attacks in Gaza, dividing groups into two basic camps, pro-Israel and pro-Palestine, is only making this worse. Call it a category problem.

What do these terms, pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian, even mean? Are they helpful, or is it time to stop using them altogether?

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Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Mike Johnson (R-La.) attends a news conference at Columbia University. April 24, 2024.

REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado

Chaos on Campus: Speaker Johnson's visit fans the flames at Columbia as protests go global

“There are so many cameras on campus my mom is going to find out I vape on the cover of the New York Times,” said a senior at Columbia University who I shall keep anonymous for her mother’s sake. But her remark accurately summarizes what it's like on campus these days.

On Tuesday, the cameras were out for House Speaker Mike Johnson and several other GOP lawmakers, who held a press conference about antisemitism on the steps of Columbia’s iconic Low Library.

Johnson demanded that the White House crack down on campus protests and called for the resignation of Columbia President Nemat "Minouche" Shafik.

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