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Credit: Ella Sohn

This story is developing and will continue to be updated.

Several pro-Palestinian students who were put on mandatory leave by the University were banned from entering the College of Arts and Sciences Graduation Ceremony at Franklin Field on Sunday evening.

Three seniors, whose leaves of absence resulted from their involvement in the Gaza Solidarity Encampment, were barred from entering the ceremony after a lack of response to communication from the Center for Community Standards and Accountability, according to a University spokesperson. 

The spokesperson wrote in a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian the three seniors' disciplinary cases were “expedited through the CSA process,” and that “letters notifying these students of the findings were delivered on Friday.”

“Because the students have not yet responded to the letters to resolve their cases, they remain on mandatory temporary leave and were not permitted to participate in the College of Arts and Sciences graduation ceremony this evening,” the spokesperson wrote.

At least three students who were not permitted to enter are standing by David Rittenhouse Laboratory and arguing with Vice Provost of University Life Tamara Greenfield King.

Several parents argued with King, saying that communication from Julie Nettleton, the director of the Center for Community Standards and Accountability, was vague and unclear.

One student standing outside DRL said that the group who was not permitted to enter requested official confirmation of their status and asked to meet with higher-up administrators. They said that no one had come to meet with them.

The students were then told by a security guard that they could not enter. The student said that graduates were told by officials that they received a letter stating they are not permitted to attend graduation.

The student said “the letter does not exist” and administrators “have not been able to produce it.”

The DP could not confirm whether the letter exists or when it was sent. 

Penn Students Against the Occupation of Palestine said in a post on Instagram that students “at Penn College graduation wearing keffiyehs [were] being profiled, prevented from walking, and are surrounded by cops + security.” The group called for “numbers for pressure” to join them outside Franklin Field.

During the ceremony, dozens of students wore keffiyehs, and several carried flags and signs across the stage when their names were called to receive their diplomas. 

Credit: File Photo

One student held up a keffiyeh painted with the words "Free Gaza" as they crossed the stage, and another had the words "Divest from genocide" painted inside their gown. Some students carried Palestinian flags across the stage and were met with cheers each time. 

A small group of pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrated outside Franklin Field as the College of Arts and Sciences Graduation Ceremony concluded.

Graduates and their families began leaving Franklin Field around 10 p.m. As they exited onto the sidewalk, seven protesters chanted and held signs up against a set of barricades on 33rd Street.

“3 Pro-Palestine students barred from walking — Shame,” one sign read.Shortly afterward, about 10 demonstrators gathered at the intersection of 33rd and Spruce streets, chanting, “UPenn, UPenn, we know you, you imprison students too.”

A Penn Police vehicle was present at the intersection, and traffic continued around the circle of protesters.

After about 15 minutes, the group walked north and joined the encampment at Drexel University, which was established on Saturday, less than a day after pro-Palestinian activists attempted to occupy Fisher-Bennett Hall on Penn’s campus and one week after the University cleared the Gaza Solidarity Encampment from College Green.

As of 8 p.m. Saturday night, protesters were setting up 12 tents on the Korman Family Quad on Drexel’s campus. The encampment began after a “NAKBA 76” rally and march traveled from City Hall to University City.

In an Instagram story reposted by PAO and the Philly Palestine Coalition, the Drexel Palestine Coalition announced, “SOLIDARITY ENCAMPMENT ESTABLISHED AT KORMAN QUAD!! COME TO CAMP!”

The message went on to explain that “Philadelphia area community members” established a Gaza Solidarity Encampment at Drexel as a “direct response to the Palestinian call for escalations in order to bring the ongoing fast-paced genocide in Gaza to a halt.”

Drexel’s encampment begins after pro-Palestinian activists attempted to occupy Fisher-Bennett on Friday evening. Protesters were met with an immediate response from Penn and Philadelphia police officers, who arrested 19 individuals — seven of whom are Penn students.

The occupation was announced in an Instagram post around 8 p.m. in a post by PAO, who called for members of the Penn and Philadelphia communities to bring “flags, pots, pans, noise makers,” and megaphones. In the statement, protesters renamed the building to “Refaat Alareer Hall” after a Palestinian poet who was killed in Gaza in December.

A statement on PAO’s Instagram said the occupation was the result of a “series of escalations by the Penn administration,” including a refusal to negotiate in “good faith,” citing arrests by Penn Police and disciplinary action taken by the University.

During the attempted occupation, several entrances to Fisher-Bennett were blocked with makeshift barricades made out of furniture, wood, and construction barricades. Police officers cleared the building shortly after the attempted occupation started. 

The attempted takeover came just one week after the University cleared the Gaza Solidarity Encampment from College Green. The encampment, which began on April 25 and lasted 16 days, began after pro-Palestinian activists pitched approximately 40 tents on College Green, beginning a demonstration that they said would continue until their demands of the University were met. 

The group's demands included that Penn divest from corporations that benefit from the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, and Israeli institutions committing “scholasticide.” Protesters also demanded that Penn defend Palestinian students, including granting amnesty to students involved in pro-Palestinian activism and reinstating Penn Students Against the Occupation of Palestine. 

Over the course of the encampment, Penn opened disciplinary cases into at least twelve students, including placing a total of six on mandatory leaves of absence

Penn's Commencement ceremony will take place on Monday morning at Franklin Field.