Updated May 7th, 2024 at 12:37 IST

Protests Prompt Columbia University to Cancel Main Graduation Ceremony

The decision, revealed by university officials on Monday, comes after weeks of demonstrations both in support of and against Palestine.

Reported by: Sagar Kar
Columbia University | Image:AP
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Columbia University has announced the cancellation of its university-wide commencement ceremony scheduled for May 15, opting instead for "smaller-scale, school-based celebrations" amidst ongoing protests on campus.

The decision, revealed by university officials on Monday, comes after weeks of demonstrations both in support of and against Palestine, raising security concerns and prompting discussions with student leaders.

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A look at Columbia's statement

"Our students emphasized that these smaller-scale, school-based celebrations are most meaningful to them and their families," the university stated. "They are eager to cross the stage to applause and family pride and hear from their school’s invited guest speakers. As a result, we will focus our resources on those school ceremonies and on keeping them safe, respectful, and running smoothly."

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The shift to individualized ceremonies will see students honored alongside their peers in smaller gatherings, with events like "Class Days" and school ceremonies relocated to Columbia’s Baker Athletics Complex from the South Lawn of Morningside campus.

“Past few weeks have been incredibly difficult,” says Columbia 

Reflecting on the recent turmoil on campus, university officials acknowledged the challenges faced by the community. “These past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for our community,” university officials said, as per a report from NBC news.

On May 15, graduation ceremonies for various schools, including the journalism school, college of physicians and surgeons, Barnard College, and the school of arts, will be held at different times and locations. Additionally, other school-based ceremonies are scheduled to take place throughout the following week.

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Here is what you need to know

The decision to cancel the main commencement ceremony follows a series of protests sparked on April 17 when students erected approximately 50 tents on campus, demanding a cease-fire in Gaza and advocating for the university to divest from companies allegedly profiting from the conflict.

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The situation escalated on April 30 when New York City police officers, equipped in riot gear, intervened at the request of university administrators to clear protesters from Hamilton Hall, which had been renamed Hind’s Hall by demonstrators. Over 100 individuals were arrested during the incident. Many universities in the US are getting ready for commencement ceremonies. It remains to be seen if other universities too will follow Columbia's footsteps. 

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Published May 6th, 2024 at 18:55 IST