Columbia Cancels Main Commencement Ceremony

Chase Smith
By Chase Smith
May 6, 2024New York
According to Columbia University, the school consulted with graduating students before cancelling the main university-wide ceremony.

The main university-wide commencement ceremony held annually at Columbia University in New York has been canceled after weeks of pro-Palestinian protests on campus.

The university said in a statement it made the decision after hearing feedback from student leaders.

“Our Deans and other colleagues who work directly with our students have been discussing plans with student leaders, and, most importantly, listening,” the statement released on Monday, May 6 said. “Based on their feedback, we have decided to make the centerpiece of our Commencement activities our Class Days and school-level ceremonies, where students are honored individually alongside their peers, rather than the University-wide ceremony that is scheduled for May 15.”

The university said the decision was made to give students “the celebration they deserve, and that they want.”

School Ceremonies Only

These same students are those who had their high school graduations interrupted at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but the university said the decision was made to give students “the celebration they deserve, and that they want.”

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.), who called on the university’s President Minouche Shafik to resign amid the protests, said the commencement cancellation is yet another sign of the failed leadership at Columbia.

“President Shafik and Columbia University administrators have displayed a shocking unwillingness to control their campus,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement. “They’ve allowed outside agitators and terrorist-sympathizing students and faculty to rewrite campus rules and spew vile, anti-Jewish aggression. Now, thousands of students who’ve worked hard to achieve their degrees will not get the recognition they deserve.”

Mr. Johnson said that Columbia’s Board of Trustees should immediately work to remove Shafik and appoint a new president who would not “cede control to Hamas supporters” and “restore order.”

“Our once great universities desperately need strong moral leadership, now more than ever,” he added.

The Columbia statement further explained that “a great deal of effort is already underway” to reach that goal and that each individual school within the university is working to incorporate “the most creative and meaningful” ideas to celebrate the moment.

“These past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for our community,” the statement continued. “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. We are eager to all come together for our graduates and celebrate our fellow Columbians as they, and we, look ahead to the future.”

The ceremonies were scheduled to be held on the South Lawn of the Morningside campus in upper Manhattan, but are being rescheduled for the majority of individual schools within the university to Columbia’s Baker Athletics Complex, with the exception of two ceremonies.

The university notes in their announcement that families will not need to change their travel plans due to the changes and more details will be released soon.

NTD Photo
Seats for commencement exercises, now cancelled, are set up at the main campus of Columbia University in New York on May 6, 2024. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

What Led to This

The New York Police Department (NYPD) arrested hundreds last week as they went in to clear a residence hall on Columbia’s campus that had been seized and vandalized by protesters.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said many of those arrested had no relation to Columbia University and the escalation in protests was led by outside agitators.

At the time of police operations last week, NYPD said there would be ongoing coordination with Columbia and that NYPD will be on campus until at least May 17 through graduation ceremonies.

Protests erupted at the 270-year-old university on April 17 in response to Israel’s military actions against Hamas in Gaza. Police arrested more than 100 people on campus on April 18 after protesters set up an encampment on the school’s lawns. Protesters resumed their demonstrations the next day, despite mass suspensions and arrests.

After days of the pro-Palestinian encampment, Orthodox Rabbi at Columbia University and Barnard College sent a WhatsApp message to more than 290 Jewish students urging them to go home out of fear for their safety.

The university notes on its graduation website that commencement dates back to 1758 and has been held outdoors on the Morningside campus since 1926.

“It is a centuries-old tradition in which degrees are symbolically conferred en masse to graduating students from nineteen schools, colleges, and affiliate institutions,” the school’s website stated. “During this ceremony, remarkable members of the Columbia community and special guests are also recognized through the bestowal of medals, awards, and honorary degrees.”

Each school within the university holds an individual graduation ceremony, but Columbia says only the University’s president can confer the actual degrees.

“As part of the ceremony, each dean steps forward to request that the President confer degrees on the school’s candidates; a tradition that has become a memorable part of the ceremony. After the University President has symbolically conferred all degrees, cheers, applause, and celebration ensue as the class officially graduates.”

From The Epoch Times

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