Columbia Cancels Commencement Citing Student Safety

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Following discussions with students, Columbia University announced a significant shift in its commencement plans. “Our students emphasized that these smaller-scale, school-based celebrations are most meaningful to them and their families,” officials said in a statement. “They are eager to cross the stage to applause and family pride and hear from their school’s invited guest speakers.”

This decision comes after weeks of student protests and disruptions on campus, culminating in heightened security measures and the cancellation of the main commencement ceremony. 

Traditionally, Columbia’s commencement ceremony is a grand affair held at the heart of its Morningside Heights campus. Instead, the university will host smaller ceremonies for each of its 19 colleges, primarily at its athletic complex.

Last Tuesday, police intervened to remove pro-Palestinian protesters from Hamilton Hall, resulting in over 100 arrests. The main campus has since been under increased security, with ongoing concerns about safety and access.

Nemat Shafik, Columbia’s president, initially expressed a desire to keep the graduation ceremony on campus but cited security considerations as a primary factor in the cancellation of the large-scale event. Instead, the university will focus on individual class days and school-level ceremonies to honor graduates alongside their peers.

While plans for a potential alternative event on May 15 are still under consideration, celebrations for various colleges will commence from Friday through May 16. This decision acknowledges the significance of the occasion for graduating seniors, many of whom have experienced disruptions in their academic journey due to COVID-19 precautions.

Despite the adjustments, Columbia remains committed to recognizing the achievements of its graduates and ensuring that families and friends can partake in the celebration. However, concerns about potential disruptions from ongoing protests led to the decision to alter the commencement format, prompting officials to prioritize safety and unity in their decision-making process, and mirroring similar actions taken by other universities facing related challenges.