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Howard University’s Graduation Drama, Explained

On Thursday, May 9, the 2024 graduates of Howard University’s College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences were all set to walk the stage for their diplomas. But what should have been an exciting and celebratory day went awry when the event was shut down due to the venue surpassing its capacity — and the chaos that ensued. 

Once the school’s Cramton Auditorium was full, the remaining guests were not permitted inside. This led to some people reacting in ways such as breaking glass, banging on the doors, and chanting to be let into the auditorium. According to NBC Washington, the disturbances led to the ceremony being canceled.

There were a few factors that may have led to this debacle. Leading up to the ceremony, Howard stated on its website that the seating for relatives and other attendees would be first come first serve, and the school would not be selling tickets for the event. This was a historically large graduating class for the university, with about 280 in the nursing and allied health department. Also, it was an especially exciting occasion for grads and their guests because most of these graduates didn’t get to have an official high school graduation ceremony, as many graduated high school in 2020, at the height of Covid, when most in-person events were canceled. 

Many students were upset both by the way the attendees behaved, and by how the institution hadn’t sufficiently prepared for an event that had such a large group of graduating students and guests. “That was supposed to be OUR moment. BOTH PARTIES ARE WRONG & the graduates suffered the most!!!!” @russhana.love, who was one of the students meant to graduate that day, said on TikTok. “Shame on Howard for not being prepared for all the families wanting to see their loved ones walk!” @sistahgirll, who was there as a friend to one of the graduates, said on TikTok. 

In a statement shared by the school on May 10 to ABC News, the university expressed a more positive outlook on the situation. “Despite the challenges, we must recognize the magnitude of this moment,” the statement read. “Our higher retention rates have led to historic graduation rates and a phenomenal turnout. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to our graduates on your remarkable achievements. Your hard work, dedication, and perseverance have culminated in this proud moment.” The statement also expresses Howard’s reverence for these graduates. “Your resilience and excellence are inspiring.”

A similar instance happened at the ceremony for the College of Engineering Architecture, when the same Cramton Auditorium reached capacity for a second time on May 10. On this occasion, however, attendees were kept out of the building while the ceremony carried on.

On Saturday, May 11, there was a large commencement ceremony for all Howard graduates at the Capital One Stadium, and there, the students of the nursing and allied health program got a second chance to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas. Dean Gina Spivey Brown gave credit to the occasion in her speech at the final commencement: “We prepared so many students of excellence, you all, that there was an overwhelming support of family, friends and loved ones. They wanted to get in so bad that they were breaking down the doors, because that’s what we do at Howard.”

Julia Dwyer

Toronto MU '25

Julia is an English major at TMU and has lived in Toronto her whole life. She is passionate about women and the things they create, book adaptations, and really good stories with flawed, loveable characters. When she's not procrastinating, studying, or buying expensive coffee on campus, you can find her rewatching Pride and Prejudice, reading everything that Emily Henry publishes, and wishing she could be eating apple pie.