Activities & Organizations Campus News

SJP hosts graduation ceremony in response to UH’s divestment censorship

The ceremony took place at the Cullen Family Plaza Fountain which members of SJP called the “reclaimed Yaffa Fountain.”| Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

On Wednesday, Students for Justice in Palestine HTX organized a graduation ceremony in response to the University removing parts of the official UH graduation livestream where students called for divestment.

The ceremony took place at the Cullen Family Plaza Fountain, which members of SJP called the “reclaimed Yaffa Fountain,” according to an Instagram post

“Unfortunately, UH decided to cut the livestream off, obviously disrespecting the memory and forever withholding that memory from them,” said biology senior and SJP member Maryam Mohammad. “It’s a very ugly move and all because the graduates decided to make a moral statement on a war that this university is complicit in.”

Another motive of the ceremony revolved around creating a safe space for students, graduates and alumni to come together and celebrate each other, something which the University failed to do, said SJP members. 

The celebration began with a moment of silence and a welcome note by industrial design junior and SJP member Amna A. 

“The graduation censorship that explicitly targeted Palestinian identity is proof to us that UH does not care about its students,” Amna said. “It shows us that UH only cares about diversity and representation whenever it suits its own image of perfect obedient students.”

Each graduates’ name was called by the SJP organizers and they were given a red flower along with a space to get their graduation pictures clicked. | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

According to SJP members and graduates, the attendees felt unsafe with the presence of police at the SJP graduation ceremony as they were not doing anything against the University policy and even complained about being followed. 

The graduates, especially the ones who were censored during the livestream, felt very thankful for this initiative taken by SJP. 

“I actually didn’t realize I was cut out of the livestream until I got home later that day and found out I was edited out,” said ecology and sociology graduate Noor Battla. “It was very spineless of them but I didn’t feel sad, instead I feel that this is an honor for them to be scared of me, my message and every single person who shares the same sentiment.” 

Students were disappointed by UH because other gestures made by students, like dancing on stage or showcasing other nationalities, were kept in the livestream unlike the Palestinian and divestment centered censorship.

During the ceremony, the graduates pledged to withhold all the donations to UH until the university divests from Israeli arms manufacturers. 

“The censorship made me feel very bittersweet about graduating from this university and coming back,” said management and information system and marketing graduate Samiha Zaman. “I’m very hesitant to show support at all for this university and won’t do the things I thought I might have done, because I realized that UH doesn’t care about its own students.” 

Each graduates’ name was called by the SJP organizers and they were given a red flower along with a space to get their graduation pictures taken. 

The ceremony was also live streamed on the SJP Instagram account and was concluded with a closing note by Amna. 

“The point of this event was to uncensor what UH did and offer our graduates an opportunity to celebrate with people who respect them and their humanity,” Amna said. “ When there is a crisis and a genocide, you do not turn your face away.” 

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