It’s college and university graduation season across the country – this year happening alongside the current environment of intensified campus protests.

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America’s largest public university, Arizona State University, has wrapped up its 36 successful university commencement-related ceremonies from May 4 to May 11 – all without disruption – while continuing to balance freedom of speech with security and ongoing operations. Demonstrations have continued peacefully throughout this time, frequently adjacent to graduation ceremonies or independent of them. 

These have been fitting celebrations for ASU’s largest graduating class ever, with 20,700 graduates.

Four years after 2020, when many graduates did not get to celebrate their high school graduations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 6,000 graduates and 30,000 spectators filled the ASU football stadium at the May 6 undergraduate commencement where President Michael Crow told the crowd, “You might note that we are holding our graduation and we protect free speech at the same time. Welcome to Arizona State University!” Earlier that morning, the festivities kicked off with 1,800 graduates and 5,000 spectators attending the graduate commencement in the ASU basketball arena.  

ASU’s expectations regarding conduct during ceremonies were communicated extensively — flyers, banners and flags were not permitted in ceremonies and it was warned that disruptive behavior would result in removal and Student Code of Conduct consequences – even for graduates. While these standards are normal protocols, the university was assertive in reminding participants about them.