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University to hold the degrees of two seniors present at Eisgruber’s Reunions talk

In the foreground, a lamp pole with a Palestinian flag next to it. In the background, a large number of protesters holding signs surrounding a parade route. In the far background, a gray stone building that is Whitman College and a green tree.
Pro-Palestine protesters disrupted the P-Rade on Saturday, May 25.
Calvin Grover / The Daily Princetonian

Two seniors will have their degrees held in relation to the pro-Palestine walkout at Eisgruber’s annual Reunions address in Richardson Auditorium last Saturday, May 25. They will still be able to attend Commencement on Tuesday, May 28. At least one other student — an underclassman — is also under investigation in relation to the disruption of the address. 

Princeton Israeli Apartheid Divest (PIAD) posted on X at 6:32 p.m. on Monday, May 27 that “at least two Black seniors are having their degrees withheld” for participation in the walkout, and claimed that “they were not given any disciplinary warnings” throughout the protest. 

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One of these students, Khari Franklin ’24, told The Daily Princetonian he received an email at 5:09 p.m. Monday evening informing him that although he would be able to attend Commencement the following day, his degree would be withheld due to an ongoing disciplinary investigation, and he would not be able to pick up his diploma. 

The other graduating senior who had their degree held did not respond to a request for comment. Due to the sensitive nature of the ongoing disciplinary proceedings, the ‘Prince’ has kept their identity private.

“It is standard University practice that when seniors are involved in alleged disciplinary violations soon before Commencement, their degrees are held pending the conclusion of a disciplinary investigation,” University spokesperson Jennifer Morrill wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince.’

Franklin told the ‘Prince’ that he did not participate in any of the four actions observed at the address. According to a spokesperson for PIAD, these actions included the raising of red-painted hands, two banner drops, and the placing of speakers under seats close to the front of the auditorium.

“I knew that the University was being very aggressive disciplinary-wise — I have already been arrested by the university,” Franklin told the ‘Prince,’ referencing his arrest at the April 29 Clio Hall sit-in. “I was not interested in getting further penalized by them, so I got up with a friend and left the building.”

Video footage reviewed by the ‘Prince’ confirmed that the two seniors having their degrees withheld left the auditorium once the crowd of protesters stood and began to chant, opting to take a separate exit from the crowd. The other senior has not been previously arrested in relation to pro-Palestine protests on campus.

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The ‘Prince’ was also able to independently identify at least one other graduating senior among the protesters participating in the red hands action. However, as of the morning of commencement, this senior has not had their degree withheld, according to a PIAD spokesperson. 

Later Monday night, a third student — Laurence Drayton ’26 — was informed that a disciplinary investigation had been opened into his actions.

Drayton received an email informing him of his disciplinary action approximately three and a half hours after PIAD first posted about the two seniors. During the protest, he stayed with the group holding up their red painted hands, which consisted of approximately 20 participants. Drayton did not lead any group chants. 

In a statement to the ‘Prince,’ Morrill confirmed that more than two students are currently under investigation for the disruption on Saturday. A spokesperson from PIAD has not identified any other students who have been placed under investigation to the ‘Prince.’

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PIAD posted a video to their Instagram on Saturday, May 25 of Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun filming protesters from the inside of Richardson once they had exited.

“Calhoun was filming from the inside. I would say that when she was filming, I was right in the front view she was filming,” Drayton told the ‘Prince’ when asked why he believed he was singled out.

“I was like the first person and I also was not wearing a mask. So, I think I was potentially a visible scapegoat, to a certain extent, but I haven't broken any policies,” he added.

Drayton said he recalled that he was only given one instruction: the demonstrators were asked to lower their raised hands to below their heads so as to not block the view of those sitting behind them. Video footage from the demonstration reviewed by the ‘Prince’ showed the instruction taking place during the three-minute campus expansion promotional video played in the middle of demonstration. The protesters promptly lowered their hands until they stood to exit, chanting on the way out.

According to the Section 1.2.3 of Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities, disciplinary action as a result of a demonstration will be taken after “due warning.” Drayton does not recall receiving any further warnings inside or outside the auditorium. 

“The University continues to enforce viewpoint-neutral time, place, and manner rules during end-of-year events. A wide range of protest activity is permitted, including walking out of an event,” Morrill wrote.

From the stage, University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 reemphasized “time, place, and manner” rules relating to free speech.

“We’re going to give people lots of opportunities to speak about those subjects, but they have to be said in ways that permit individuals to have the conversations that matter,” he said. 

As the protesters stood up to exit, Eisgruber added “thank you all for coming,” and temporarily exited the stage as they began to chant. He did not directly warn the broad group of protesters that their actions were in violation of University rules.

The University’s criteria for what constitutes “due warning” in the Richardson incident is a departure from prior disciplinary actions relating to pro-Palestine protests. In previous weeks, demonstrators often received several verbal warnings from University officials or physical handouts warning that their behavior violated University policy.

“Significantly disrupting University operations and events is not permitted,” Morrill added. 

Drayton also noted that he was one of the only “visibly transgender” protesters among the group.

“I would say, at least, that it's quite striking that the three students they disciplined, two are Black, me, the third one … I am visibly transgender or gender-nonconforming,” he said.

For Franklin, who expected to receive his degree on Tuesday, the decision is frustrating.

“It's very surreal. Because on one hand, I have not quite processed that the University would have gone this far, and been this drastic … without any indication or warning or reasonable expectation that a rule had been broken,” he said. “But at the same time, I also am not surprised.”

This story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Annie Rupertus is a head News editor for the ‘Prince’ from Philadelphia, Pa. who often covers activism and campus governance.

Christopher Bao is an assistant News editor and the accessibility director for the ‘Prince.’ He is from Princeton, N.J. and typically covers town politics and life.

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

Correction: This piece has been updated to clarify that the two seniors are having their degrees held temporarily, as opposed to withheld as outlined in Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities 1.1.7. The ‘Prince’ regrets this error.

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