Columbia University Cancels Main Graduation Amidst Israel-Gaza War Protests

After weeks of protests on campus surrounding the Israel-Gaza war, Columbia University has decided to cancel its main graduation ceremony scheduled for May 15. The Ivy League institution cited concerns for student safety and opted for smaller celebrations instead, following consultations with student leaders.

In a statement issued on Monday, the New York City university explained that students expressed a preference for smaller-scale, school-based celebrations, which they deemed more meaningful to them and their families. These celebrations would allow them to cross the stage, receive applause, and hear from invited guest speakers in a safe and respectful environment.

Police intervened and arrested more than 100 students at New York University (NYU) (Credit: Selcuk Acar/Anadolu via Getty Images)

The decision comes amidst widespread demonstrations at nearly 140 colleges across 45 states and Washington DC since protests began at Columbia University in mid-April. Over 2,500 individuals have been arrested nationwide in connection with these protests, according to reports.

Columbia University itself faced disruptions as pro-Palestinian protesters occupied Hamilton Hall, renaming it Hind’s Hall, in honor of a six-year-old Palestinian girl killed in Gaza. The college intervened, leading to more than 100 arrests. Further demonstrations resulted in arrests when protesters pitched tents at the Morningside neighborhood campus.

Pro-Israel protestors chant a song as they demonstrate at Columbia University. (Credit: AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Protesters have been advocating for the college to restrict companies allegedly profiting from the Israel-Gaza conflict. However, incidents of antisemitism have also been reported during the unrest.

To ensure campus safety, Columbia has requested that the New York police remain on campus until at least May 17. The decision to cancel graduation comes shortly after police cleared a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.

NYPD officers arrest pro-Palestinian protests began at Columbia University and spread to other schools in New York. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, other universities have steered similar tensions. Northeastern University’s graduation ceremony in Boston proceeded relatively peacefully, although Palestinian flags were waved and pro-Palestinian chants were heard alongside Israeli flag displays. At the University of Mississippi, an investigation was launched into allegations of racist behavior during protests on campus.

The situation underscores the challenges faced by universities amidst heightened tensions surrounding the Israel-Gaza conflict, prompting institutions to balance safety concerns with academic freedom and student activism.

Arit Saha
Arit Saha
Arit Saha, an Economics graduate and budding content writer in Kolkata, deftly merges his passions for economics and global politics. He crafts engaging content weaving economic insights into geopolitical narratives. Contact: [email protected]
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