Columbia University cancels main graduation ceremony due to protests

University cites feedback from students in decision to forgo university-wide event.

Columbia University cancels main graduation ceremony due to protests
AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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Columbia University announced on Monday that it will not proceed with its planned main graduation ceremony later this month, citing disruptions caused by ongoing pro-Palestinian protests on the New York City campus.

Instead of the university-wide commencement event scheduled for May 15, the Ivy League institution stated that school-level ceremonies will become "the centerpiece" of graduation activities, allowing graduates to be honored individually, reports the Daily Wire.

"Our students emphasized that these smaller-scale, school-based celebrations are most meaningful to them and their families," Columbia said in a statement. "They are eager to cross the stage to applause and family pride and hear from their school's invited guest speakers."

The university noted that previously planned class days and school ceremonies set to take place on the Morningside campus' South Lawn – the site of an encampment by protesters – have been relocated, mostly to the Baker Athletics Complex.

The decision follows actions by the New York Police Department last week to clear protesters from Hamilton Hall and the lawn encampment. Columbia University President Minouche Shafik requested a continued police presence through at least May 17 "to maintain order and ensure encampments are not re-established."

Last month, Columbia became a focal point for protests sparked by the Israel-Hamas conflict, mirroring demonstrations at other universities nationwide. The University of Southern California had also canceled its main commencement ceremony.

As previous attempts to remove tents and detain protesters failed to quell the demonstrations, Columbia transitioned to remote and hybrid classes on the main campus. Shafik stated last week that talks broke down and the university would not divest from Israel as demanded by protesters.

House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik criticized the decision, calling it "an unbelievable failure of leadership" and stating that "hardworking students and their families will now go without this celebratory event after years of hard work."

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