Columbia University Cancels Main Commencement Ceremony After Weeks of Protests

The university will hold smaller “school-level ceremonies” instead of the previously-planned event on May 15

<p>NYPD via AP</p><p>NYPD via AP</p>

Columbia University has canceled its main commencement ceremony following weeks of protests over the Israel-Hamas war, officials said Monday.

The ceremony, originally scheduled for May 15, will be replaced by “school-level ceremonies, where students are honored individually alongside their peers,” the university said in a news release on May 6.

“Our graduating students, their families, and their loved ones are very focused on our upcoming Commencement celebrations,” the school said in the release. “We are as well. We are determined to give our students the celebration they deserve, and that they want.”

Most of the ceremonies will occur at Columbia’s Baker Athletics Complex, the school said. The athletics complex is about 100 blocks away from the campus, located on 218th Street in Manhattan.

A similar decision was recently made at the University of Southern California (USC). “With the new safety measures in place this year, the time needed to process the large number of guests coming to campus will increase substantially,” the school said in a statement. “As a result, we will not be able to host the main stage ceremony that traditionally brings 65,000 students, families, and friends to our campus all at the same time.”

Related: Students Denied High School Graduation Due to COVID May Miss Out Again amid College Protests

Columbia’s decision comes weeks into continued controversy at the Ivy League school.

More than 100 people have been arrested during the protests on campus, and police swarmed Hamilton Hall on April 30, where pro-Palestinian protestors were removed from the building at the request of school administrators, The New York Times reported.

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The ongoing controversy was also front and center on Saturday Night Live, which featured a cold open where members of the cast played parents concerned about their kids’ involvement in the protests.

Related: Single Mom Who Was Formerly Incarcerated Passes Bar Exam on First Try: ‘I Was Going to Get Right Back On Track’

For students, many of whom missed out on a normal high school graduation four years ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are mixed emotions about missing out on another commencement.

Columbia senior Henry Sears told NBC News last week that “the top concern that I’ve been thinking about is what will happen with commencement, especially since our first year of college was online.”

However, another graduating Columbia student expressed solidarity with the protests.

“I think that what’s most important right now is that we stick together and put up a united front against the administration and if that means sacrificing my graduation, then I’m willing to do that, Rachel Burns told The New York Times.

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