Columbia Cancels University-Wide Commencement Due to Protests

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Columbia University decided to cancel its main commencement ceremony amid ongoing pro-Palestinian protests. This move followed weeks of disruptions on campus and at universities nationwide. Instead, smaller, school-based celebrations will take place, offering students a chance to mark their achievements.

The decision reflects a broader trend as universities grapple with managing commencements amidst protests. Emory University also shifted its ceremony location due to protests, while others like the University of Michigan, Indiana University, and Northeastern managed their ceremonies without major disruptions. On the other hand, Rutgers University cancelled exams on a case-by-case basis and ended protests after coming to a negotiation with students.

The cancellation at Columbia on May 15th spares President Nemat Shafik from delivering a speech in an area recently cleared of protests. The university acknowledged the challenges faced by the community and prioritized students' preference for more intimate celebrations with invited speakers.

Most of the ceremonies will now occur at Columbia’s sports complex, featuring notable speakers like playwright James Ijames, former CNN anchor Poppy Harlow, political scientist Ian Bremmer, and others. Columbia had already switched to online classes due to the protests, which saw over 200 demonstrators arrested.

Similar protests and disruptions occurred at other universities, prompting varied responses. The protests are part of broader calls to divest from companies associated with the conflict in Israel and Palestine, which escalated in October. These actions reflect a complex and ongoing conversation about free expression and campus safety.

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