UC Berkeley undergrads celebrate commencement amid campus protest

Saturday marked commencement day for undergraduate students at the University of California, Berkeley.

The occasion was particularly special for the Class of 2024, many of whom had their high school graduations canceled or held virtually due to COVID-19.

"I didn't get the opportunity to say a lot of goodbyes back when I played sports," remembered Reece Murphy, a UC Berkeley senior. "I didn't get to give that senior speech. I didn't get to a lot of things and it kind of feels like it's coming full circle."

On campus Saturday, students hurried around in their gowns and stoles to capture photos with friends and family before the ceremony at California Memorial Stadium.


Controversial billboard outside UC Berkeley law school graduation

A pro-Israel group put up a controversial billboard on Friday morning outside UC Berkeley's law school graduation.

Murphy noted the difference between his freshman year and the present day at UC Berkeley.

He said his class had the opportunity to live in the dorms freshman year, but remembered many of them being empty.

Despite protests at college campuses nationwide over the Israel-Hamas conflict, students didn't feel overshadowed by it on their graduation day. UC Berkeley has a sprawling student encampment established in support of Palestine amid the Middle East conflict.

"I know the media might be talking about these protesters happening and that it's disrupting life but that's one part of it," said student Kathan Saah. "Life goes on normally, and we try to accommodate the protesters and listen to them. But as long as things don't get out of hand, it's fine We haven't seen that happen here so it's been a pretty peaceful situation overall."

The university said it focused on creating a memorable experience for graduating students and their families.

SEE ALSO: Protestors explain divestment issues at UC Berkeley as encampment continues

A university spokesperson said, "Berkeley graduation ceremonies have been venues for all sorts of protests for many years. This year, like every year in the past, our efforts will focus on ensuring the ceremony can be successfully held, and on supporting the ability of graduating students, their friends, and families to safely enjoy and take part in an incredibly meaningful day."

Students like Murphy voiced confidence that protests would not spoil graduation. Most students agreed that protesters deserve to have their voices heard.

"If something happened at graduation, I don't think it would be violent," Murphy said. "It would happen in a manner that is perfectly appropriate, and if someone feels strongly enough to express themselves during their graduation, they should be heard."