Columbia University Cancels Main Commencement Ceremony After Gaza Protests

After weeks of demonstrations over the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, Columbia University has canceled its main commencement ceremony, according to The Wall Street Journal. Moving forward, the 2024 year will be celebrated with smaller-scale graduations.

Safety concerns were cited as the reason for this change. Originally, the main ceremony was scheduled to take place on May 15 outdoors on the university’s New York City campus. The exact location that would have been used for the ceremony was the same site as a pro-Palestinian encampment that set up by students, which was taken down last week by police.

The smaller ceremonies will be for each of Columbia’s different schools, including nursing, journalism and teaching. Events that were previously scheduled to take place outdoors will now be held indoors, the university said. This news comes as the University of Southern California announced in late April is was canceling its main commencement ceremony over similar concerns.

More than 2,000 people participating in pro-Palestine demonstrations have been arrested across the U.S., according to NBC News. Columbia has stood as a center for these college protests for weeks. Last Tuesday, NYPD, dressed in what was described at the time as “riot gear,” entered the college’s Hamilton Hall, which was occupied by roughly 60 students for most of the day. During the protest, the students renamed the building to Hind’s Hall in honor of six-year-old Hind Rajab, who was killed under Israeli fire.

The passion and fervor around the protests even led to New York Magazine enlisting the help of students from the university’s independent student newspaper, Columbia Daily Spectator, for its cover story.

“On the morning of Wednesday, April 17, Columbia University President Minouche Shafik was scheduled to address Congress about antisemitism on campus,” a post about the collaboration reads. “Hours earlier, in the dead of night, pro-Palestinian students began executing plans to occupy the school’s South Lawn. The events that unfolded over the next 14 days — protests, counter-protests, the takeover of Hamilton Hall, and an NYPD crackdown authorized by Shafik herself — convulsed the Columbia community and college campuses nationwide.”

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