CSUS ‘always has security’ at graduation, but isn’t expecting protest-related interruptions

Pro-Palestine demonstrations on college campuses across the nation continue to draw attention and stir controversy going into the spring graduation season as student activists call for their educational institutions to divest from Israel amid the war in Gaza.

Hundreds of law enforcement personnel descended on an encampment at University of California, Irvine, on Wednesday, ending in the arrest of more than 50 protesters, including faculty members. Police have arrested more than 2,900 people at college campuses across the US during protests against the Israel-Hamas war, with nearly 500 of those arrests occurring in California.

Demonstrations at graduation ceremonies haven’t have resulted in mass arrests, but there have been some interruptions. UC Berkeley’s undergraduate graduation ceremony Saturday was interrupted at several points by demonstrators but proceeded mostly as scheduled. At Pomona College, a group of more than 100 people led by graduates marched outside the graduation venue, attempting to block access to the event, and Los Angeles officers in riot gear moved in to disperse the crowd.

UC Davis saw a muted display at its law school graduation May 10, where students expressed themselves with flags and signs, “as is typical of a commencement ceremony,” said James Nash, a university spokesman. There were no interruptions of the ceremony.

Starting Friday, Sacramento State will hold seven separate ceremonies for its different academic colleges at Golden 1 Center, drawing tens of thousands of attendees to celebrate the several thousand 2024 graduates.

But do activists plan to demonstrate at any of the ceremonies? And are Sacramento State administrators preparing for interruptions?

What to expect at this this weekend’s grad ceremonies

Sacramento State is one of the few schools that has seen the peaceful end of a campus encampment, which could reduce the possibility of an organized protest at graduation. Activists packed up their encampment earlier this month following a university decision to investigate its direct and indirect investments to ensure “socially responsible investment strategies which include not having direct investments in corporations and funds that profit from genocide, ethnic cleansing, and activities that violate fundamental human rights.”

The school’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine lauded the action in a statement, but said that “the struggle doesn’t end here.” SJP organizers did not confirm or deny whether they plan to demonstrate at this weekend’s commencement ceremony.

Sacramento State spokeswoman Lanaya Lewis said that they are not aware of any planned demonstrations, but that the university always has security at commencement.

“We are prepared to respond to conditions that arise,” Lewis said. “That is consistent with previous commencements.”

Lewis said that Golden 1 Center would have security staff at the graduation. She also said that the university would staff their own security but declined to confirm that Sac State police department is involved.

The city police department will monitor the exterior of the event, “just like any event at the Golden 1 Center,” said Officer Cody Tapley, a spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department.

Nearby residents and attendees can expect some road closures depending on vehicular and pedestrian traffic. No specific closures have been announced — police will make decisions based on traffic patterns that morning.

The university declined to comment on specific plans to address disruptions.