update deskSchools & Higher Education

Columbia cancels school-wide commencement amid anti-Israel protests

“It is abundantly clear that President Shafik would rather cede control to Hamas supporters than restore order,” said Speaker of the House Mike Johnson.

A view of protesters demonstrating outside the campus of Columbia University in New York City on April 22, 2024. Credit: Evan Schneider/U.N. Photo.
A view of protesters demonstrating outside the campus of Columbia University in New York City on April 22, 2024. Credit: Evan Schneider/U.N. Photo.

Columbia University announced on Monday that it is canceling its university-wide commencement ceremony amid the ongoing anti-Israel protest movement. It plans to hold smaller, in-person ceremonies for each of its schools.

“We have decided to make the centerpiece of our commencement activities our class days and school-level ceremonies, where students are honored individually alongside their peers, rather than the university-wide ceremony that is scheduled for May 15,” the university wrote.

The university added that it is relocating all events scheduled to take place on the university’s South Lawn, the former site of the “Gaza solidarity encampment,” which the New York City Police Department cleared last week, arresting hundreds of protesters.

The university is still “looking at the possibility” of a “festive event” on May 15 in lieu of the formal commencement.

Columbia now joins the University of Southern California in canceling scheduled graduation ceremonies out of apparent fear of disruption by anti-Israel protesters. Over the weekend, dozens of anti-Israel protesters disrupted ceremonies at Indiana University Bloomington and the University of Michigan.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) quickly condemned Columbia University president Minouche Shafik’s decision to cancel the graduation ceremony, calling it a capitulation to the protesters.

“President Shafik and Columbia University administrators have displayed a shocking unwillingness to control their campus,” Johnson stated. “They’ve allowed outside agitators and terrorist-sympathizing students and faculty to rewrite campus rules and spew vile, anti-Jewish aggression. Now, thousands of students who’ve worked hard to achieve their degrees will not get the recognition they deserve.”

“Because it is abundantly clear that President Shafik would rather cede control to Hamas supporters than restore order, Columbia’s Board of Trustees should immediately remove her and appoint a new president who will,” Johnson added. “Our once great universities desperately need strong moral leadership, now more than ever.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who grilled Shafik in a congressional hearing on campus antisemitism in April, called the decision a “disgrace” and said that the entire governance structure of Columbia had failed.

“Columbia’s commencement cancellation is an unbelievable failure of leadership after they weakly negotiated with the pro-Hamas terrorist encampment,” she wrote. “They have lost control of the school.”

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