Columbia University graduate in zip ties rips diploma during ceremony amid Gaza protests

NEW YORK — A Columbia University graduate in zip ties and a keffiyeh ripped their diploma on stage at the social work graduation ceremony amid ongoing pro-Palestinian protests at the beleaguered Ivy League school.

Video of the protest, which went viral Sunday night after the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine posted the clip on social media, showed the master’s program graduate cross the stage with their hands above their head, before tearing the degree in two and tossing it behind them.

The protester then held up their graduation cap, reportedly decorated with the name of a Palestinian prisoner, Mohammad Natsheh, during the Friday evening event. University officials twice this semester summoned the NYPD to arrest pro-Palestinian campus protesters, who were placed in the plastic handcuffs the graduate wore.

“Thousands of Columbia graduates and their families have already celebrated at Class Day ceremonies that started on Friday and concluded successfully with virtually no disruption,” a Columbia spokesperson said in a statement.

“We join in the excitement of the remaining graduates who will celebrate their incredible achievements at their own Class Days and graduation events the rest of this week and as they start their next chapter.”

Last week, Columbia announced the cancellation of its university-wide commencement, citing security concerns after weeks of campus protests over the war in Gaza that culminated with the takeover of an academic building, Hamilton Hall.

School-level graduation ceremonies are continuing as scheduled but were relocated from main campus to Columbia’s athletic complex several miles north. The undergraduate college graduation will be held Tuesday.

There were other protests and disruptions during Columbia graduation ceremonies over the weekend, including a PhD student walkout and students who crossed the stage with Palestinian flags, including one that said “divest from genocide.”

Another graduate adorned their cap to say: “Acknowledge the Class of 2024 of Gaza and those who will never graduate.”

An estimated 15,000 Columbia students were expected to receive diplomas this semester, including many undergraduates whose high school graduations were canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. Several seniors who face disciplinary action related to the pro-Palestinian protests are not eligible to complete their degrees.

Columbia has requested the NYPD remain on campus through May 17, once all school-level ceremonies have ended.