Columbia University Cancels Main Graduation Ceremony

columbia cancels graduation

Columbia University has canceled this year’s main commencement ceremony days after calling on New York City police to arrest dozens of students and faculty participating in pro-Palestinian protests. 

“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 wrote in an announcement posted Monday morning.

“Our students emphasized that these smaller-scale, school-based celebrations are most meaningful to them and their families. 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,” the school added. 

Last week, NYPD officials stormed Columbia’s campus for the second time in less than a month. On April 18, dozens of students were arrested after University President Nemat Shafik requested the NYPD clear a student encampment protesting Columbia’s investment in Israeli companies and defense contractors amid the ongoing war in Gaza. Shafik once again requested the NYPD on Thursday to clear the re-establishment of the encampment and remove students from Hamilton Hall, a campus building occupied by protesters. Law enforcement showed up heavily armed and clad in riot gear The NYPD arrested112 people in a night of violent action during which one officer fired his gun inside Hamilton Hall. 

Columbia’s crackdown on protesters sparked a nationwide student movement against U.S. support for Israel’s ongoing siege against Gaza, which has led to the deaths of more than 34,000 Palestinians. Across the country, protesters on university campuses have been met with similarly violent police responses. 

Over the weekend, students protested at the University of Michigan’s commencement ceremony. Dozens of students clad in their academic regalia marched toward the stage at Michigan Stadium. “Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest,” they chanted, adding: “Israel bombs, U of M pays, how many kids have you killed today?” Several other schools, including the University of Vermont and the University of Southern California, have canceled their central commencement events in response to on-campus protests. 


With Columbia serving as a focal point for the nationwide protest movement, students and faculty remain embittered by Shafik and the administration’s response to protesters. A poll of students, faculty, and other Columbia staff conducted by The Columbia Spectator and New York Magazine found that 77 percent of the more than 700 individuals polled think Shafik’s administration has not handled the demonstrations well, and 57 percent felt the use of the NYPD to clear the protesters was “totally unwarranted.” 

Fifty percent of those polled felt Shafik should resign from her leadership of the college. 

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