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Swarthmore College moves commencement off campus as pro-Palestinian encampment marks 1 month

Swarthmore College moves graduation ceremony off campus because of pro-Palestinian protest
Swarthmore College moves graduation ceremony off campus because of pro-Palestinian protest 00:22

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Swarthmore College is moving its graduation ceremony off campus and into the city of Philadelphia amid an ongoing pro-Palestinian protest encampment on campus.

Protesters first set up an encampment on Parrish Lawn on Swarthmore's campus on April 22, demanding the school withdraw investments in Israel and recognize that universities in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed in the Israel-Hamas War. Graduation was supposed to happen on Parrish Lawn.

The camp was one in a wave of protests across the country where camps were established on university campuses like Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania — but unlike at those schools, the encampment has not been dismantled. 

However, organizers shared on social media that they've received notice to clear the site as soon as possible and that they could face interim suspensions or charges.

Chopper 3 flew over Swarthmore's campus Wednesday. There are still some tents and Palestinian flags on the Parrish Lawn, but there are also several markings indicating some tents have been removed.

CBS News Philadelphia

Meanwhile, Swarthmore is moving forward with plans for a commencement ceremony off campus. The college said in a letter to students the school will now hold commencement at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia on the morning of Sunday, May 26.

"We know that some of you will be disappointed by the decision to move the ceremony off campus. The fact is that there is really no viable on-campus alternative to Parrish Lawn that can accommodate an event as complex and large as Commencement," the letter read.

Other locations like the Scott Outdoor Amphitheater were considered but were not as accessible, or could not support the expected crowd size.

"Many of you have expressed frustration that we don't simply clear the encampment that is located on Parrish Lawn, which is where we intended to hold the ceremony this year," the letter read. "Swarthmore has a longstanding commitment to supporting peaceful protest. As we've seen at other institutions, attempts to clear encampments have often led to physical confrontations — including between police officers and protesters — and, in many cases, have not successfully ended the protests."

Swarthmore says even if the encampment were cleared today, "given the complexity of the arrangements, we are past the point when we could make a change to the location."

The school says transportation will be provided for guests to and from campus and the Mann Center. More information on logistics is available on the school's website.

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