Columbia University Nixes Main Commencement Event After Protest Chaos
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 1: Columbia University President Minouche Shafik visits Hamilton Hall on the campus of Columbia University on May 1, 2024 in New York City.
(Photo by Indy Scholtens/Getty Images)

On Monday, Columbia University announced it would not go forward with plans to hold the Ivy League institution’s main graduation ceremony later this month after pro-Palestinian protests caused a major disruption on the New York City campus.

Instead of holding the university-wide event on May 15, the college said feedback from deans and colleagues who have been working with student leaders led to the decision of making school-level ceremonies the “centerpiece” of commencement activities with graduates honored individually.

“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,” Columbia said in a statement.

Columbia also noted that class days and school ceremonies that had been slated to take place for the South Lawn of the Morningside campus — the location where protesters had set up camp  — were relocated to other locations, mostly at the Baker Athletics Complex.

The decision comes days after the New York Police Department sent officers to clear Hamilton Hall, which protesters had seized, and the lawn encampment.

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik asked police to remain present through at least May 17  to “maintain order and ensure encampments are not re-established.”

Last month, Columbia became an epicenter for protests in response to the Israel-Hamas war that sprung up at universities across the country. The University of Southern California already opted to nix its main commencement ceremony.


As prior efforts to uproot tents and detain protesters failed to quell the protests, Colombia shifted to remote learning and hybrid classes at the main campus. Shafik said last week that talks broke down and Columbia would not divest from Israel as the protesters had demanded. Suspensions took place alongside the latest police crackdown.

House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) called the cancellation of Columbia’s main commencement event “an unbelievable failure of leadership after they weakly negotiated with the proHamas terrorist encampment. They have lost control of the school.”

She added on X, “Hardworking students and their families will now go without this celebratory event after years of hard work. This is a disgrace and the entire governance of Columbia has failed — the President and the entire Board.”

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