Columbia University cancels main commencement ceremony amid protests

Officials at Columbia University announced the cancellation Monday of the school’s university-wide commencement ceremony amid ongoing protests fueled by the war in Gaza.

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The main ceremony was scheduled to take place on May 15. On Monday, officials said celebrations will instead focus on ceremonies held by individual schools on campus.

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

An unidentified university official said the decision was made due to security concerns, WNBC-TV reported.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters began gathering at Columbia on April 17, forming the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment,” according to the university’s student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator. They came together on the same day the university’s president appeared before Congress to testify on Columbia’s handling of antisemitism on campus.

Hundreds of people have since been arrested at the encampment and at the school’s Hamilton Hall, a building that was occupied by protestors on April 30.

University officials said Monday that they are still looking at holding another “festive event on May 15 to take the place of the large, formal ceremony.”

“These past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for our community,” university officials said Monday, adding that they “are focused on making our graduation experience truly special.”

“We are eager to all come together for our graduates and celebrate our fellow Columbians as they, and we, look ahead to the future. We will share more in the coming days,” officials said.

Other schools have also canceled commencement ceremonies after students at colleges nationwide began staging protests in response to the war between Israel and Gaza.

Since Hamas launched an attack on Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people — mostly civilians — Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to The Associated Press. Israel and its supporters have attacked the protests as antisemitic while its detractors have accused Israel of using the label to silence opposition, the news agency reported.

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