Most Notre Dame graduates remain in stadium despite walkout protest

Published: May. 21, 2017 at 7:00 PM EDT
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On most graduation days, Notre Dame students remain in the stadium during the ceremony. But dozens left when Vice President Mike Pence took the stage on Sunday. The student group, We Stand for ND, organized the walkout after learning the former Indiana governor was their speaker.

"This went better than planned," remarked organizer Bryan Ricketts, a double major in chemical engineering and political science. "It came to the moment of truth if people feel strong enough to walk out."

The University estimates 100 of the 3,172 graduating students took part in the walkout. Some in the audience booed those who left.

"It was a nerve wracking experience," said graduate Aniela Tyksinski.

Still, she was glad she participated.

"To be able to be a part of something much larger than our campus is really important," Tyksinski added.

Many of the students walked out because they argue Pence's policies hurt vulnerable groups of people, such as LGBTQ individuals, immigrants, and refugees.

"I'm a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants so that means a lot to me (to participate)," said Jessica Pedroza.

Notre Dame alum Ken Munro saw his daughter graduate inside the stadium. He believes that's where all of the students should have turned their tassels.

"I think it's kind of an indictment of the way that our education system has turned from a place where you have a free discourse of ideas to a place if you hear something you don't agree with, you run away," said Munro.

Roseline Odhiambo said she feels some people misunderstood the walkout.

"I think, for many of us right now, it was more or less to point out the fact that we're willing to have a conversation, but we need to come to the table," she said.

Sarah Khan said she wanted to walk out but the tug of the Alma Mater kept her inside the stadium.

"I just think (Vice President Pence) doesn't respect a lot of people who were in the audience that truly represent Notre Dame and the Catholic mission that Notre Dame tries to uphold, but I do respect that he was our speaker, and I think it was an important part of our commencement," she said.

Students who walked out held a small tassel-turning ceremony on the northwest-side of the stadium.