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Columbia University cancels commencement amid protests

Columbia University has announced the cancellation of its university-wide commencement ceremony, originally scheduled for May 15, in favor of “smaller-scale, school-based celebrations”.

The decision comes after weeks of pro-Palestine protests on campus.

The university stated on Monday that students had expressed a preference for these smaller, more intimate ceremonies. “Our students emphasized that these smaller-scale, school-based celebrations are most meaningful to them and their families,” the university said. “They are eager to cross the stage to applause and family pride and hear from their school’s invited guest speakers.”

The decision was made following discussions with student leaders, with security reasons cited as the primary factor behind the move. The graduating class will now be honored individually alongside their peers at these school-based ceremonies.

Most of these ceremonies will take place at Columbia’s Baker Athletics Complex, rather than the South Lawn of the Morningside campus where they were initially scheduled. However, the timings will remain the same.

University officials are also considering hosting a “festive event” on May 15 to replace the large, formal ceremony. “These past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for our community,” the university wrote. “We are eager to all come together for our graduates and celebrate our fellow Columbians as they, and we, look ahead to the future.”

This move follows similar decisions by other universities, such as the University of Southern California, which also cancelled its main commencement ceremony next month amid pro-Palestine protests.

Over 1,000 protesters across the country have been arrested as law enforcement stepped in to disperse demonstrations, occupations, and encampments on campuses. Students at Columbia are believed to have been among those arrested following a police raid last week of Hamilton Hall on the New York campus, which had been renamed Hind Hall by protesters.

Authorities at Columbia stated they had no choice but to involve the police, citing that Hamilton Hall “had been occupied, vandalized, and blockaded”. The NYPD cleared the building late Tuesday evening, arresting about 100 people. There were no reports of resistance or injuries.

In a later revelation, the police department disclosed that a police officer accidentally discharged his firearm during the clearing of Hamilton Hall. No injuries were reported, and the bullet was found lodged in a nearby wall.

Mayor Eric Adams reported that about 300 people were arrested at Columbia and City College of New York following Tuesday’s events, with many charged with trespassing and criminal mischief.

Prior to this, over 100 Columbia students were arrested in April during peaceful protests on their campus. The protests began on April 17 when students set up a camp with around 50 tents to demand a ceasefire in Gaza and for the university to divest from Israel or companies allegedly supporting the ongoing conflict.


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