Columbia Cancels Main Commencement Ceremony Amid Anti-Israel Protests

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Mary Lou Masters Contributor
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Columbia University announced on Monday the cancellation of its main commencement ceremony following weeks of anti-Israel protests and encampments on campus.

Protestors — who are demanding the school boycott, divest and sanction Israel over its counteroffensive in Gaza following the Hamas terrorist attack — were threatened with suspensions last week if they did not remove themselves from the encampments. The Ivy League’s administration told students in a press release that it would forgo its university-wide commencement on May 15 to instead celebrate them “individually alongside their peers” via “Class Days and school-level ceremonies.” (RELATED: Columbia University Shifts Classes Online After Pro-Palestinian Protest Takes Over Campus)

“Our students emphasized that these smaller-scale, school-based celebrations are most meaningful to them and their families,” the press release reads. “They are eager to cross the stage to applause and family pride and hear from their school’s invited guest speakers. As a result, we will focus our resources on those school ceremonies and on keeping them safe, respectful, and running smoothly. A great deal of effort is already underway to reach that goal, and we understand the Deans and school teams are looking forward to working with their students to incorporate the most creative and meaningful ideas to celebrate this extraordinary moment.”

Columbia University President Nemat “Minouche” Shafik testifies before a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on “Columbia University’s Response to Antisemitism,” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 17, 2024. (REUTERS/Ken Cedeno)

Pro-Palestinian protestors seized Columbia’s Hamilton Hall on Tuesday, with one employee reportedly claiming to have been held hostage inside the building. The New York Police Department made over 44 arrests, according to the New York Post.

The administration also announced that its remaining ceremonies will be relocated from Morningside campus, which is where Hamilton Hall is located.

“These past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for our community,” the press release reads. “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. We will share more in the coming days.”

House Republican Speaker Mike Johnson released a statement criticizing Columbia President Nemat “Minouche” Shafik and other administrators for “display[ing] a shocking unwillingness to control their campus,” and called for her removal.

“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,” said Johnson.

“Because it is abundantly clear that President Shafik would rather cede control to Hamas supporters than restore order, Columbia’s Board of Trustees should immediately remove her and appoint a new president who will. Our once great universities desperately need strong moral leadership, now more than ever.”

Anti-Israel protests have popped up on college campuses across the country in recent weeks, including at Yale University, Emerson College, University of California, Los Angeles and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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