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Hundreds of anti-Israel Harvard students, faculty walk out of graduation ceremony

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Videos and reports circulating the internet show hundreds of Harvard University students and faculty walked out of the school’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, wearing keffiyehs and waving Palestinian flags and anti-Israel banners.

National Review reports the Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine (HOOP) coalition, which organized the university’s anti-Israel encampment, posted a video of students marching out of the area in which commencement was held on its Instagram page. The video shows students chanting “hey hey, ho ho, the occupation has got to go” and is accompanied by a caption that reads, “over a THOUSAND of Harvard students and faculty have walked out of graduation.”

Shabbos Kestenbaum, who graduated from Harvard Divinity School on Thursday and is currently involved in a lawsuit against the university over its inaction on campus antisemitism, posted a video on his X account capturing the scene in which protesters — both students and faculty — rose from their seats and walked toward the exit, chanting “let them walk” and “disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest” and inviting those around them to the “People’s Commencement,” an event student activist groups organized as a substitute for Harvard’s official ceremony.

In response to a National Review comment request, Harvard’s media-relations department responded with a section of interim president Alan Garber’s welcome address during the ceremony.

“As our ceremony proceeds, some among us may choose to take the liberty of expressing themselves to draw attention to events unfolding in the wider world,” Garber said. “It is their right to do so. But it is their responsibility to do so with our community — and this occasion — in mind.”

The chants of “let them walk” referred to Harvard’s decision to withhold degrees from 13 seniors facing disciplinary action for their roles in the school’s encampment. The faculty of the university’s arts and sciences college voted in a Monday meeting to provide those 13 students with diplomas, a move the Harvard Corporation — the university’s highest governing body — rejected.

“Each of these students has been found by the College’s Administrative Board — the body established by the FAS faculty to investigate and adjudicate disciplinary matters — to have violated the University’s policies by their conduct during their participation in the recent encampment in Harvard Yard,” the Harvard Corporation said in a statement explaining the decision.

Shruthi Kumar, a graduating senior who gave an address at the commencement ceremony soon after Garber received a chorus of boos, reportedly went off script and slammed the university for its decision not to confer degrees on those 13 students. Pulling a piece of paper from her graduation regalia that was seemingly not included in her prepared and approved remarks, she professed her disapproval of Harvard leadership.

“As I stand here today, I must take a moment to recognize my peers: The 13 undergraduates in the class of 2024 that will not graduate today. I am deeply disappointed by the intolerance for freedom of speech and their right to civil disobedience on campus,” Kumar said. “The students have spoken. The faculty have spoken. Harvard, do you hear us?”

Kumar also discussed what she described as the “doxxing” of Harvard students who signed statements defending Hamas’s actions and blaming Israel for the Hamas terror attack of October 7.

“For many of us students of color, doxxing left our jobs uncertain, our safety uncertain,” Kumar said. “This semester, our freedom of speech and our expressions of solidarity became punishable, leaving our graduation uncertain.”

Kestenbaum, who testified about the antisemitic harassment he’s faced before the House Education and Workforce Committee in February, told National Review he was not surprised by the chaos at commencement.

“Today’s commencement is the natural outcome of months of failed leadership and normalized antisemitism,” said Kestenbaum, who estimated that half of his fellow divinity school graduates walked out of the ceremony. “While students and speakers made sure to interrupt, walk out, and defend their antisemitic peers, no mention of the hostages, Jewish students’ experiences at Harvard, or October 7 was made.”

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Report: Denver area migrants cost $340 million to shelter, educate

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A report by the free-market Common Sense Institute found the more than 42,000 migrants who have arrived in Denver over the last year and a half have cost the region as much as $340 million. The city of Denver, local school districts, and the region’s health-care system have spent between $216 million and $340 million combined to shelter, feed, clothe, and educate the migrants, and to provide them with emergency medical care.

National Review explains the report builds off a previous report from March that conservatively found that the migrants had cost the region at least $170 million. “Costs are never localized,” said DJ Summers, the institute’s research director. “They expand outward.”

Democratic leaders are being blamed for their welcoming posture toward immigrants generally, and their sanctuary-city policies, which curtail law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with federal immigration agents. Since late December 2022, at least 42,269 migrants — or “newcomers” as Denver leaders call them — have arrived in the city, adds National Review.

The Common Sense Institute report found that the migrant crisis has also hit local emergency rooms hard with extensive expenses. Since December 2022, migrants have made more than 16,000 visits to metro emergency departments. At an estimated cost of about $3,000 per visit, that has resulted in nearly $48 million in uncompensated care.

Summers said those costs are “stressing existing health care organizations,” but they also indirectly hit residents in their pocketbooks through increased insurance prices.

Metro school districts have endured the biggest financial hit — estimated between $98 million and $222 million — according to the Common Sense Institute report. The large range in costs is due to the difficulties researchers had identifying exactly how many new foreign students are tied to the migrant crisis.

The researchers found that since December 2022, 15,725 foreign students have enrolled in local schools. Of those, 6,929 have come from the five countries most closely identified with the migrant crisis — Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

On average, it costs a little over $14,000 to educate a student for a year in a Denver-area public school, but Summers said migrant students likely cost more.

“They have transportation needs that are different, they have acculturation needs that are going to be different, language assistance needs that are going to be different,” he said. “Many of them might need to get up to speed in curriculum. They might need outside tutoring.”

Earlier this year, Colorado lawmakers approved $24 million in state funding to help school districts statewide plug budget holes related to the migrant students.

Summers said the updated Common Sense Institute tally is likely still missing some costs related to the ongoing migrant crisis.

“There are definitely additional costs. We just don’t have a great way to measure them just yet,” he said, noting legal fees, crime, and unreported business and nonprofit expenses.

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