Columbia cancels university-wide commencement ceremony after protests


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Columbia cancels university-wide commencement ceremony after protests

AFTERMATH. Private security and NYPD police officers stand guard at the gates of Columbia University in New York City, New York, U.S., May 2, 2024. 


Similar demonstrations have been sparked at numerous US universities by the Columbia University protests

NEW YORK, USA – Columbia University on Monday, May 6, canceled its main, university-wide commencement ceremony scheduled for May 15 in favor of smaller, school-based events, a decision that follows weeks of pro-Palestinian protests that roiled the Ivy League School.

“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,” Columbia said in a statement, calling the past few weeks “incredibly difficult for our community.”

The protests at Columbia, which drew national attention, have inspired similar demonstrations at dozens of universities around the US. Students have called for a ceasefire in Gaza and have demanded their schools divest from companies with ties to Israel.

Some universities, including Columbia, called in riot police wielding batons and flash-bang grenades to disperse and arrest hundreds of protesters, citing a paramount need for campus safety. Civil rights groups have decried such tactics as unnecessarily violent infringements on free speech.

More than 34,600 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s military operations in Gaza, according to health officials in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave. The war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and abducting 252 others, of whom 133 are believed to remain in captivity in Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.

The turmoil on campuses has prompted several colleges and universities across the country to relocate, modify, or cancel commencement ceremonies altogether.

In April, the University of Southern California also called off its main-stage ceremony, one week after canceling the valedictorian speech by a Muslim student who said she was silenced by anti-Palestinian hatred.

Columbia said on Monday it had consulted with student leaders in deciding how to handle graduation. The majority of the ceremonies, which had been set to take place on its upper Manhattan campus, where most of the protests have taken place, will take place at the main athletic complex about five miles away.

New York City police cleared a Columbia campus building last week that had been barricaded by pro-Palestinian protesters, arresting more than 100 people and dismantling an encampment.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, where pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian protesters clashed last week and where police arrested more than 200 people while clearing a pro-Palestinian encampment on Thursday, Chancellor Gene Block on Sunday announced a new Office of Campus Safety.

A former Sacramento, California, police chief, Rick Braziel, will lead the office and report directly to Block. –

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