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Jerry Seinfeld

Duke students walk out to protest Jerry Seinfeld's commencement speech in latest grad disruption

Duke University students walked out of Sunday's commencement as speaker Jerry Seinfeld was introduced. Seinfeld has been a vocal Israel supporter. It is the latest in a series of college disruptions.

Dozens of students participated in a walkout during Duke University's commencement ceremony on Sunday to protest comedian Jerry Seinfeld, a supporter of Israel who was invited as the guest speaker.

The walkout was one of the latest commencement disruptions to come amid continued protests on college campuses of Israel's war in Gaza. On Saturday, protesting students at Virginia Commonwealth University walked out as Gov. Glenn Youngkin delivered the commencement address. On the same day, students at the University of California, Berkeley interrupted commencement with pro-Palestinian chants.

In North Carolina, students dressed in caps and gowns got up from their seats in Duke's football stadium and headed toward the exit; several waved Palestinian flags and shouted "free, free Palestine," videos show. Chants of "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!" could be heard from the stands as Seinfeld received an honorary degree.

In the days following the Oct. 7 attack in which Hamas and other militant groups killed some 1,200 Israelis and took over 250 people hostage, that condemned the attack and generally supported Israel. In December, he visited Israel and met with the families of hostages.

In an , Seinfeld said he was surprised by "hostile" reactions to his trip but he does not regret it. "I don鈥檛 preach about it. I have my personal feelings about it that I discuss privately," he said. "It鈥檚 not part of what I can do comedically, but my feelings are very strong."

On Sunday, Seinfeld did not directly address the walkout in his speech, which went largely without interruption.

"A lot of you are thinking, 'I can't believe they invited this guy.' Too late," he said, before moving on to the concept of privilege. "I say, use your privilege. I grew up a Jewish boy from New York. That is a privilege if you want to be a comedian."

Universities across the country announced changes ahead of commencement and various graduation events, some much more drastic than others. Columbia University and the University of Southern California canceled their main commencement ceremony. Others, like Emory University in Atlanta and Pomona College outside of Los Angeles, moved large graduation events off campus. Several universities that did not change locations or cancel commencement have said they've taken extra measures to ensure the events run smoothly, like upping security.

Pro-Palestine protesters hold a rally after The University of Texas at Austin鈥檚 commencement ceremony at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday, May 11, 2024 in Austin. About 100 protesters, which included current and graduating students and faculty and staff, gathered to call for the University of Texas at Austin to divest from weapon manufacturers that supply arms to Israel.

Commencement speakers removed, others drop out

In addition to the protests, speakers themselves have either been removed from commencement plans or chose to drop out themselves.

91影视 Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield has been removed from the commencement program of Xavier University in Louisiana and the聽University of Vermont after an uproar of rebukes from students.

Last week, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead backed out of his planned speech at the University of Massachusetts Amherst,聽聽the university's decision to call police on student protesters "a shameful act." Days before Whitehead's announcement, police arrested over 130 people and dismantled a pro-Palestinian encampment.

Before the University of Southern California canceled its mainstage graduation, it canceled a planned commencement speech by valedictorian Asna Tabassum, who faced backlash from pro-Israel groups who accused her of espousing antisemitic views on social media. She and subjected to "racist hatred because of my uncompromising belief in human rights for all."

For nearly a month, pro-Palestinian encampments, sit-ins and building occupations have popped up across hundreds of college campuses in the 91影视 and overseas. The protests exploded in size and quantity after Columbia University had the New York City Police Department clear an encampment on April 18. Demonstrators have called for universities to divest from Israel and companies profiting from the war, which has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Contributing: Reuters; Jeanine Santucci and Eduardo Cuevas, 91影视

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