University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduation goes off with minor interruption

Tom George Image
Sunday, May 12, 2024
UNC graduation goes off without major interruption
UNC graduates took the stage Saturday at the school's commencement ceremony to complete a challenging four years.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Inside a packed Kenan Stadium was a sea of Carolina blue.

The graduating class that went through COVID uncertainty, a tragic shooting, and now campus protests making it to this day.

"We made it work out and we're glad, we're glad we're graduating we're finally here and it's a big relief," said UNC senior Dev Patel.

Concerns over recent pro-Palestine protests spilled into the Old Well as demonstrators chanted behind people taking pictures and eventually got testy with police. Demonstrators also splattered red paint on the steps of UNC's South Building.

And inside Kenan Stadium, there was a warning before the start of the ceremony.

"Those who do not adhere to these rules will be asked to leave. Anyone who does not leave when asked or does not put down signs that block view will be removed and arrested," the announcement said.

No major disruptions, but there were some boos for Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts who notably ordered the removal of an encampment a few weeks ago, accompanying police to raise the American flag back on campus after the Palestinian flag was put up.

"Carolina doesn't belong to you, it sure doesn't belong to me, it doesn't belong to any one group this university is something we share," Roberts told the crowd.

According to our newsgathering partners at the News and Observer, during Roberts' final words of encouragement to graduates, several people began moving into the center aisle carrying two Palestinian flags. Protesters were met with boos, people shouting "This is America" and "USA! USA!"

The protesters were then removed from the field by police.

NASA astronaut and Tar Heel grad Zena Cardman was in attendance at Saturday's ceremony and gave the commencement address.

In August, Cardman will join NASA's Space-X Crew-9 mission to head to the international space station.

Nasa astronaut and Tar Heel grad Zena Cardman gave the commencement address at Saturday's ceremony.

But in the end, Saturday was about the graduates who say the difficult climate we live in only motivates these Tar Heels to take on the world.

"You know the world is always going to have a lot going on in it but at the end of the day I'm grateful that this evening I can focus on graduating," said graduate Matthew Bunn.