Columbia University Cancels Main Graduation Event

    06 May 2024

    New York City's Columbia University announced Monday that it would cancel its main end-of-year event, or commencement, scheduled for May 15.

    The decision comes after weeks of pro-Palestinian protests that have disrupted the second half of the school year.

    Some Jewish students have said they felt unsafe at the school. Officials moved classes online and city police arrested numerous students after they entered a school building, Hamilton Hall, without permission.

    Students walk inside Columbia University in New York City on May 6, 2024. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)
    Students walk inside Columbia University in New York City on May 6, 2024. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

    Not all events celebrating the end of student study programs will be canceled. Individual schools will still go ahead with their smaller graduation events. The events will not take place on the school's main campus area where the protesters had set up a camp. Instead, they will mostly take place at the university's sports area, about eight kilometers away.

    In its announcement, Columbia stated recent weeks have been "incredibly difficult." The school said it talked with students before making the decision. Officials said the smaller, school-centered ceremonies were the most important for students and their families. "They are eager to cross the stage to applause and family pride and hear from their school's invited guest speakers," the university said.

    The protest camp at the university involved about 200 demonstrators. They were calling for an end to the war between Israel and Hamas that is taking place in the Gaza Strip. The protesters demanded that Columbia sell its investments in Israeli businesses and American businesses that assist Israel's war effort.

    Media reports say the Columbia protests prompted other demonstrations at American universities. These include the University of Southern California (USC); the University of California, Los Angeles; and the University of Michigan.

    USC also cancelled its main graduation event after students protested. Students left their protest camp at USC on Sunday after police moved in and threatened them with arrest.

    Some university graduation events have already taken place. At the University of Michigan's event on Saturday, chanting students slowed down the event more than once. In Boston, some students waved Palestinian and others waved Israeli flags at Northeastern University's ceremony.

    I'm Dan Friedell.

    Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by The Associated Press.


    Words in This Story

    disrupt –v. to interfere with normal activities

    graduation –n. the successful completion of a course of study at a school or college

    eager –adj. very willing

    applause –n. clapping hands as a sign of praise and approval

    pride –n. being please with something you have done

    prompt –v. to cause someone to do something through a sign or a suggestion

    chant –v. to say something repeatedly at the same time with other people