Columbia University Cancels Graduation Ceremony Due to Student Protests Over Gaza War

United States North America Higher Education News by Erudera News May 06, 2024

Columbia University in New York

Columbia University said early on Monday it has canceled the university-wide commencement ceremony due to student protests against Israel’s war in Gaza.

In its statement, Columbia said that after discussions with student leaders and deans who work directly with students, it will move from a university-wide ceremony planned for May 15 to Class Days and school-level ceremonies where students are each honored, Erudera.com reports.

“We have decided to make the centerpiece of our Commencement activities our Class Days and school-level ceremonies, where students are honored individually alongside their peers, rather than the University-wide ceremony that is scheduled for May 15. Our students emphasized that these smaller-scale, school-based celebrations are most meaningful to them and their families,” Columbia’s statement reads.

The Ivy League school announced this decision a few days after its administration called the New York Police Department (NYPD) to intervene on campus and remove students who had taken over the university’s building, ending their encampment.

While clearing Hamilton Hall, the building occupied by pro-Palestinian protesters, police officers arrested nearly 100 people. About 40 protesters were arrested on the first floor. The university asked the police to stay on campus until at least May 17, two days after the commencement ceremony which has now been canceled.

Pro-Palestine protests at Columbia began on April 17, when students set up an encampment of nearly 50 tents in the center of campus, which they named “Gaza Solidarity Encampment.” Three student groups — Columbia University Apartheid Divest, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, and Jewish Voice for Peace asked the university to cut ties with businesses connected to Israel’s military.

One day later, on April 18, Columbia asked NYPD to clear campus and end the student protest encampment. The operation resulted in the arrest of over 100 protesters. After their arrest, student protests continued at many other college campuses, including Columbia. The university then shifted to remote classes.

University officials said that the majority of school ceremonies during the next week will take place at Columbia’s Baker Athletics Complex.

“These past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for our community. Just as we are focused on making our graduation experience truly special, we continue to solicit student feedback. We are looking at the possibility of a festive event on May 15 to take the place of the large, formal ceremony,” the university said.

According to the schedule published on Columbia’s website, the graduation ceremony scheduled for May 15 will take place at different times in the following locations:

  • The Armory,
  • Radio City Music Hall
  • Lerner Hall
  • United Palace Theatre

© Tobias Pfeifer | Unsplash

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