New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

2024 commencement exercises begin at Yankee Stadium

The ceremony comes amid heightened tensions between the university’s administration and pro-Palestinian protesters, and follows cancellations of commencement ceremonies at Columbia University and the University of Southern California.
Krish Dev
(Krish Dev for WSN)

At NYU’s 191st commencement exercises — President Linda Mills’ first as head of the university — this year’s 22,000 graduates filled the stands of Yankee Stadium as rain fell from above. 

The May 15 ceremony comes amid a particularly turbulent year for Mills, during which she has faced both heavy criticism of her approach to pro-Palestinian demonstrations — including the authorization of student and faculty arrests — and pressure to do more to curb antisemitism on campus. Pro-Palestinian protesters have continued to organize demonstrations at NYU events, and called for a walkout during commencement on social media.

The ceremony opened with a performance of “New York, New York” by students of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, followed by a procession led by faculty and university administrators where representatives from each school carried banners to the center of the field. Georgina Dopico — who has been NYU’s interim provost for nearly two years — delivered the opening pronouncement following the processions.

Chair of the board of trustees Evan Chesler then addressed the outgoing class and their guests as the board’s leader for the first time this year

“As the Chair of NYU’s board of trustees, and as a proud two-time alumnus and scholarship recipient of NYU, it is my privilege to welcome you, along with your family and friends, to Yankee Stadium,” Chesler said. “I urge you to reflect on your own moments of discovery and connection during your time at NYU.”

During the presentation of honorary degrees to this year’s recipients — Nobel Prize-winning diplomacy expert Ouided Bouchamaoui, Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Katalin Karikó and commencement speaker Martha Minow — graduates booed as Mills began to speak.

Mills followed Samuel Fung, this year’s student speaker and a graduate of the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, who addressed Israel’s ongoing siege in Gaza and the Russia-Ukraine war in his speech.

“Globally, we are facing climate change, systemic socioeconomic inequalities and of course the devastating humanitarian crises emerging out of military conflicts,” Fung said. “In Ukraine, Palestine, Israel, but also in places that many of us aren’t talking about: Yemen, Sudan, Myanmar, the list goes on.”

Minow, who is a human rights law expert and the former dean of Harvard Law School, then addressed this year’s graduating class.

“Work against injustice; don’t demonize your adversaries,” Minnow said. “Can both views be right? For me, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s observation helps. He said, ‘The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still be able to function.’”

Following Minow’s commencement address, Mills gave a speech which was met with boos from the crowd and dozens of students walking out of the stadium in protest. 


Linda Mills behind a podium.
President Linda Mills. (Jason Alpert-Wisnia for WSN)

“Let’s try a thought experiment: Think of someone from whom you might normally shy away, or with whom you might not usually agree,” Mills said in her speech. “What would it look like to stretch and to bridge, to learn from those you might otherwise judge, even reject. Today as we face a world of war and polarization, this is as important as ever. The enduring desire to be open to those most unlike us.”

The students who exited the stadium gathered outside its entrances, chanting “NYU, you can’t hide, you’re abetting genocide” and “Linda, Linda what do you say, how many students did you arrest today?” Security guards formed a barricade separating the demonstration from the stadium’s exit and around a dozen New York City Police Department officers surrounded it.

“During a joyful 2 1/2 hours for 40,000 grads and guests, I observed a few passing moments of booing by a tiny fraction of the crowd,” NYU spokesperson John Beckman wrote in a statement to WSN. “It had no impact on the proceedings, which carried on very well, and the overwhelming majority of the attendees seemed to enjoy the Commencement Exercises very much.”

After Mills’ speech, Tisch alumni Brittney Johnson and Carla Stickler performed an excerpt from the Broadway show “Wicked.” Mills then presented the University Medal to this year’s recipients, Tisch professor Susan Hilferty as well as Johnson and Stickler, both of whom have acted in “Wicked.”

Deans from each of the university’s schools then presented diplomas to graduates on behalf of the degree candidates in their programs. Following the presentation of the degrees, Dopico opened the Ceremony of the Torch. Torchbearer Anthony Grieco, associate dean at the Grossman School of Medicine, passed the torch to the youngest baccalaureate degree candidate, Emily Bustrum, a 19-year-old Gallatin graduate. While holding the torch, Bustrum pulled a Palestinian flag from under her stole after Mills conferred the degrees.

“Graduates, you have now joined the ranks of NYU alumni, who for nearly two centuries have shared their knowledge and used their talents to benefit humanity,” Mills said in her closing remarks. “We know you will continue this tradition, embodying the words of our motto: perstare et praestare, to persevere and excel.”

Update, May 15, 2:31 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional events from NYU’s 2024 commencement exercises.

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Contact Bruna Horvath, Carmo Moniz, Dharma Niles and Yezen Saadah at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Bruna Horvath
Bruna Horvath, News Editor
Bruna Horvath is a sophomore studying journalism and English at CAS. When she’s not a News Editor, she’s a "Gone Girl" enthusiast, a Goodreads lover, and a Barnes & Noble frequenter. You can usually find her ordering an iced mocha, telling people her name is “Bruna” not “Bruno,” or on Instagram @brunaahorvath.
Carmo Moniz
Carmo Moniz, Managing Editor
Carmo Moniz is a junior studying journalism and politics. She enjoys covering city news and dabbling in data journalism, and aspires to one day join the journalism-to-law-school pipeline. When she's not in classes or at the Washington Square News, you can find her looking for a movie to watch or embarking on random art projects. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @carmo_moniz or send tips at [email protected].
Dharma Niles
Dharma Niles, Deputy News Editor
Dharma Niles is a first-year student currently studying journalism and politics at CAS, and has yet to choose between the six different minors she'd also like to pursue. You can generally find her playing NYT games, skittering around the city with a Celsius in hand or on Instagram @dharmaniles.
Yezen Saadah
Yezen Saadah, Editor-in-Chief
Yezen Saadah is a junior studying cinema studies, journalism and Middle Eastern studies. He's a lover of cinema, history, art and literature, and he enjoys writing about pretty much anything. If he isn't in the newsroom or at the movies, he's probably just trying to enjoy his day off. Contact him on Instagram @yezen.saadah or send tips to [email protected]
Jason Alpert-Wisnia
Jason Alpert-Wisnia, Editor-at-Large
Jason Alpert-Wisnia is a junior majoring in Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts, primarily focused on photojournalism and documentary photography. His photography ranges from coverage of professional sports, to political protests and music festivals. When he is not pounding the pavement with a camera in his hands looking for the next story, you are likely to find Jason in a used bookstore looking for rare finds or in the park reading. You can find him on Instagram @jasonalpertwisnia and contact him at [email protected].
Julia Smerling
Julia Smerling, Photo Editor
Julia Smerling is a first-year studying photography and imaging, and is one of WSN’s Photo Editors. She is from West Palm Beach, Florida, and you can find her writing poetry, overly obsessing about films, painting art on jeans and always having her headphones on. Also, she’s secretly Peter Parker. You can reach her on Instagram @juliasmerling or her art account @jul3sarchive (where mostly her mom hypes her up and likes her posts so please give it a look — it's becoming embarrassing at this point.)
Krish Dev
Krish Dev, Multimedia Editor
Krish is a first-year planning to major in Computer Science and Linguistics at CAS. In his free time, he enjoys posting photos on @krish_dev.creations, obsessing over geography, watching new films with friends, taking public transport to new places and letting Arsenal make or break his week.

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  • T

    Teresa OSheaMay 16, 2024 at 1:45 pm

    Thousands of graduates were unable to enter the stadium and missed part or all of the ceremony. The lack of organization was disgraceful. There was no one present to give direction and the lack of staff and metal detectors resulted in wait times of 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Shame on you NYU.

  • A

    Adam sazMay 15, 2024 at 1:01 pm

    This was simply a fiasco from the organization perspective. Thousand of people are still outside the stadium trying to get in as of 12:30PM. We were in line for 2 hours and 10 minutes to get in. Badly mismanaged by the University. It appears that NYU doesn’t care. Very disappointed. Pure incompetence by the university organizers. Hopefully someone would look into this. What a disgrace!!