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OPINION: UT Austin Protects Graduation

Retired Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, the U.S. Air Force’s first female fighter pilot and a 1990 UT graduate, delivered the keynote address | Image by University of Texas
Retired Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, the U.S. Air Force’s first female fighter pilot and a 1990 UT graduate, delivered the keynote address | Image by University of Texas

Last Saturday, thousands of UT Austin students and their families celebrated graduation on campus. That is more than can be said of other universities across the country, from USC to Emory.

Leading up to commencement, universities nationwide witnessed violent protests calling for the destruction of Israel and America. Rioters regularly chanted for genocide against Jews, such as “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” and “There is only one solution—Intifada Revolution.”

Some protestors were even more explicit about their intentions. For example, Khymani James, the leader of the rioters at Columbia University, proclaimed, “The existence of them and the projects they have built i.e. Israel, it’s all antithetical to peace. So yes I feel very comfortable—very comfortable—calling for those people to die. Be glad, be grateful that I’m not just going out and murdering Zionists.”

These rioters tried to overrun UT Austin too. But here, the mob found President Jay Hartzell, a leader who would not allow his university to be taken hostage. President Hartzell protected the UT community from outside agitators (more than half of those arrested were unaffiliated with the university), from rioters who attacked the police (some of whom were carrying weapons), and stopped an illegal tent city from being established.

President Hartzell’s decisions culminated in a graduation ceremony that actually occurred, that was joyous for all, and that was refreshing in its normality.

By his clear response to lawlessness on campus, President Hartzell advanced the university’s mission: learning in an environment free from harassment, anarchy, and criminal conduct. Something so basic should not be so extraordinary. But it is.

Silverstein graduated from UT Austin last week

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