College and University Presidents and Campus Leaders,

Over the past six months, since Hamas’s terrorist attack on Israel, we have seen an unprecedented spike in antisemitism, especially on our college campuses.  According to ADL survey data, close to 75 percent of Jewish students have witnessed or experienced an antisemitic incident since the beginning of the school year, and things only seem to be getting worse.

As commencement season approaches, what should otherwise be a joyous occasion for so many students and their families has been clouded by the looming threat of anti-Zionist protests shutting down these events.  As you may know, just last month, during an Honors Convocation ceremony at the University of Michigan, anti-Zionist protesters were so disruptive that the University President ended the event early and abruptly left the stage.

To allow disturbances such as these to ruin a lifecycle moment for students and their families is simply unacceptable, and ultimately, a failure of leadership and an insult to the broader campus community. As evidenced by the ability of colleges and universities to hold major sporting and other events with thousands (or even tens of thousands) of spectators, most campuses know how to maintain security and ensure the event is safe, inclusive and runs smoothly. Parents, students, and alumni expect nothing less from graduation and other end-of-the-year events.   We accordingly urge you to take clear, decisive action now to ensure that graduation ceremonies, events, and functions run smoothly, and that all students and their families feel safe, welcomed and celebrated. These include:

  • Review and Strengthen Your Policies: Review and, as needed, update your school’s policies pertaining to the disruption of school functions or activities.  These policies should make clear that intentionally obstructing or interfering with school events is a violation of the school’s code of conduct and will be met with consequences.  Such policies should provide clear guidance regarding what conduct is prohibited, followed by a series of examples (e.g., deliberately blocking the audience’s view of a speaker/presenter, producing noise with the intent to prevent the speaker/presenter from being heard, using laser pointers or projections, intentionally setting off alarms, threats and incitement, etc.).
  • Put the Campus Community on Clear Notice: Send a message to the entire campus community now, reiterating your campus policies pertaining to the disruption of university functions.  Explain that while your school is committed to safeguarding freedom of speech and the right to protest, freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to drown out the words and speech of others. Make clear that there will be consequences for violations of school policies and specify what specific disciplinary sanctions may be imposed (e.g., probation, suspension, loss of privileges, a notation of disciplinary action on student records, etc.).  
  • Finalize a Security Protocol: Immediately convene a working group comprised of all relevant stakeholders, including campus security personnel, to develop a safety plan for Commencement ceremonies.  The plan should include a clear protocol for admissions, crowd control, and preventing interference with any ingress or egress; as well as a process for swiftly and safely escorting individuals from the premises if, after a clear warning, they persist in disruptive conduct that interferes with the ceremony.  
  • Ensure Accountability for Any Violations: If disruptions do occur that violate school policies, take immediate action to hold students accountable.  Enforcing your student code of conduct and ensuring that there are consequences for behavior that crosses the line will send a strong message that your campus is committed to protecting the safety and rights of all students during school events and activities. 
  • Provide Resources and Support: Take steps now to show support for Jewish and Israeli students on your campus.  Reach out to Hillel, Chabad, Jewish student organizations, or other trusted partners to better understand how students are feeling in this moment and what resources or support would be most helpful in the lead up to and during Commencement ceremonies on campus.

Graduation is a time of joy and celebration. As leaders in the Jewish community, we ask that you take your role seriously in making sure that Jewish students – and all students – are not robbed of a positive, memorable lifecycle event.

We are available as a resource if you have any questions and look forward to your prompt response. 


Jonathan Greenblatt

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