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Broken glass door led to shutdown of graduation ceremony, university says

The College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences graduation ceremony ended early Thursday evening after dozens of people trying to get into Cramton Auditorium crowded the entrance and a glass door that led to the Cramton foyer was broken.

A glass door broke after an individual banged on it multiple times. Security guards stood in the Cramton Auditorium foyer to prevent individuals from entering after they blocked the entrances. (JD Jean-Jacques/The Hilltop) 

After a glass door in the foyer was broken by an individual who banged on it trying to get inside, Howard’s College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences (CNAHS) graduation ceremony abruptly shut down an hour after starting on Thursday evening.

The ceremony ended before graduating students were able to walk the stage and receive their diplomas.

On May 9, around 100 parents, relatives and friends of graduating CNAHS students stood in front of Cramton Auditorium as early as 4 p.m., trying to find a way inside. Security and building personnel closed and locked the second sets of doors leading to the Cramton foyer, as the auditorium had exceeded capacity, Howard’s Office of Communications said. Visitors banged on the glass doors and chanted, “Let us in.”

The ceremony was scheduled to be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. but was cut short at around 7 p.m. In an email to the graduating CNAHS class, dean Gina Spivey-Brown said that the ceremony will continue May 11th “immediately after Commencement Convocation concludes” in the Capital One Arena.

This week, Howard’s schools and colleges will have conducted their individual graduation ceremonies. Family and friends have flown to campus to see graduating students walk across stages and receive their diplomas. Many attendees of the CNAHS graduation ceremony, however, expressed frustration, as they were unable to make it inside Cramton for capacity reasons and because the ceremony ended early. 

In her address, CNAHS Dean Gina Spivey-Brown said the college was the largest graduating CNAHS class in Howard’s history, with 280 degrees being awarded. The graduation website says that Cramton can accommodate about three to four guests per graduate. The auditorium has about 1,500 seats, and the event was not ticketed.

“Because of the size of the room, and because our relatives sometimes do not know how to act, the fire department is now here to shut us down,” Spivey-Brown said to the crowd after the keynote speaker, Dwain N. Esmond, was asked to pause his speech. 

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Wowwww @Howard Universty do F*CKING better. Im student here and can plan a graduation ceremony better that your unprofessional faculty. Yall have a whole field that can be utilized, why would you try to cramp everyone in one auditorium. My Dad called fox 5 news lmaooo. DO BETTER HBCU #howarduniversity #hcbulove #2024graduates #howard #hbcugrad ♬ Rich Shooters by Shy Glizzy – Lexi

A TikTok video of the crowd that gathered at Cramton Auditorium went viral with more than four million views. Courtesy of Destiny Marilyn.

Noah Gray, the chief communications officer for DC Fire and EMS (Emergency Medical Service), said that the departments did not shut down the ceremony but instead responded to a medical call at the request of campus police at 6:42 p.m. 

The university did not confirm who made the call to end the ceremony early.

“During the ceremony, a visitor who was not able to enter the facility, which had reached capacity, applied pressure to a glass window, which caused the window to break. This incident led to a disturbance among guests outside of the facility, resulting in a disruption of the program,” the Office of Communications said.

“…we apologize wholeheartedly for the challenges experienced during our College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences (CNAHS) commencement exercise,” the office said. “Looking forward, we are committed to implementing measures to better manage crowd capacity and enhance the graduation ceremony experience.”

The office did not respond to follow-up questions regarding Cramton as the location choice, the ceremony’s ticketing policy or the fire hazard status. The office said that graduating CNAHS students would receive their individual awards on May 10. 

As they left the building, some graduating students dried their teary eyes, frustrated at the shutdown of the ceremony. The class of 2024 was the first to matriculate during the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought many high school graduations online. The CNAHS celebration marked some students’ first in-person graduation ceremonies.

“Having this graduation was very important for me and a lot of other people here. I wish that we could have walked the stage,” Osayuwamen Ehue, a health management major from Brooklyn, said.

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Kalysta Henderson, a health sciences major from Riverside, California, said she was heartbroken. 

“I feel completely devastated, I feel blindsided. I did not know it was going to be like this. My entire family flew out here,” she said. “Howard is a very expensive school, and I have paid for it myself out of pocket and through loans just to stay here… today has just been completely devastating and heartbreaking.”

Tiffany Sesay, mother of graduating nursing major Jenna Sesay, said she flew in from Los Angeles a day before the ceremony. She said she was unable to get inside and had been waiting since 4 p.m.

“It was very disappointing not to see her walk. It was disappointing for her to come out crying. I felt like it should have been planned a lot better. First come, first serve is not good enough for a small building like this,” Sesay said.

Guests surrounded all exits, including the side doors of the building. As university President Ben Vinson Ⅲ was escorted to his car, one family plead their case to him about being let into the ceremony.  

Evans K. Simmons, father of graduating health management major Kameren Simmons, drove from Hamden, Connecticut, for the ceremony. He said the turn of events took away from the meaning of graduation for his family.

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“She’s carrying my dad, my mom, my mother-in-law and also my wife and myself, and then, most of all, her being able to walk across the stage to represent her own self,” Simmons said. 

“It still is somewhat marred by it coming to this particular end, but I would say that it definitely is a lesson of resiliency. [We’re] still going to find a way to celebrate, and we will recreate that stage moment at some point,” he said.

The College of Arts and Sciences ceremony will be held in Burr Gymnasium and requires tickets. The gymnasium seats 2,700 people. 

All commencement information is outlined on

This is an ongoing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Copy edited by Jalyn Lovelady

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