Updated May 6, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Columbia cancels commencement amid campus protests

Pro-Palestinian students and activists gather at an encampment on the campus of Columbia University on April 25. Photo: Leonardo Munoz / AFP via Getty Images

Columbia University announced Monday it is canceling its two main commencement ceremonies after the school began suspending protesters who refused to leave their encampment in protest of the war in Gaza.

The big picture: Colleges across the country have become flashpoints for student protests over Gaza, with Columbia serving as an epicenter of the unrest.

Zoom in: The commencement ceremonies were scheduled for May 15.

  • Instead, the school will focus on "Class Days and school-level ceremonies, where students are honored individually alongside their peers," the university said in a press release.
  • These events have also been relocated from Columbia's Morningside Campus' South lawn the former location of protesters' pro-Palestinian encampment to other venues.
  • The school emphasized that the timings of these smaller events remain unchanged.

What they're saying: "These past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for our community," the university said, adding that it is still considering a "festive event" to take the place of the large 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," the school added.

Zoom out: The University of Southern California was the first known major university to cancel a graduation ceremony over the demonstrations.

Catch up quick: After Columbia leaders testified at a GOP-led congressional hearing in April, university president Minouche Shafik called on the New York Police Department to remove protestors from campus.

  • More than 100 people were arrested, sprouting solidarity protests and encampments at other universities across the U.S.
  • Last week, protesters occupied and barricaded Columbia's Hamilton Hall. Hours later, New York police moved onto Columbia to clear the building, arresting 109 demonstrators.

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Editor's note: This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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