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Columbia cancels graduation, cites safety issues after hundreds arrested in anti-Israel protest

Smaller ceremonies, Class Days to be relocated

Columbia University announced the cancellation of its university-wide commencement ceremony on Monday, just days after more than 200 anti-Israel protesters were arrested on campus.

Instead of the May 15 ceremony, the New York university will focus on providing increased security during its Class Days and individual school ceremonies, according to the announcement.

Last week, police arrested more than 200 pro-Palestinian protesters after they refused to break up their encampment on the campus lawn; others took over Hamilton Hall, smashing windows, breaking through doors, and barricading themselves inside, the Columbia Spectator reported.

“These past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for our community,” the university stated in its Monday announcement.

Rather than hold a campus-wide commencement, “we will focus our resources on those school ceremonies and on keeping them safe, respectful, and running smoothly,” it stated.

Columbia also moved the locations of these smaller ceremonies to the Baker Athletics Complex and other venues, the announcement states.

The traditional location, the South Lawn, is where pro-Palestinian protesters set up their “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” before police removed the protesters April 30, the Spectator reported.

“Just as we are focused on making our graduation experience truly special, we continue to solicit student feedback and are looking at the possibility of a festive event on May 15 to take the place of the large, formal ceremony,” the university stated.

Two weeks ago, the escalating tension with protesters prompted Columbia to cancel in-person classes and, then last week, close the campus to everyone except students and essential employees.

University President Minouche Shafik responded to the campus upheaval in a video message Friday.

“We tried very hard to resolve the issue of the encampment through dialogue,” Shafik said. “Many people who gathered there were largely peaceful and cared deeply about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Academic leaders talked with students for eight days and nights.”

She said the protesters refused the university’s “sincere and good” negotiation offer, and then “crossed a new line” when they occupied Hamilton Hall – “a violent act that put our students at risk, as well as putting the protesters at risk.”

Shafik said those who disagree should “do so civilly, recognize each other’s humanity, and show empathy and compassion for one another.”

Other institutions, including the University of Southern California, also have canceled or modified their graduation ceremonies due to the anti-Israel protests, Reuters reported.

MORE: Columbia Law students want exams canceled: ‘Unable to focus, highly emotional’

IMAGE: Columbia University Alumni for Palestine/Instagram

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.