Columbia announced Monday it would cancel its main commencement ceremony, opting for smaller graduation events for each of its 19 colleges. AFP

NEW YORK CITY - Columbia announced Monday it would cancel its main commencement ceremony, opting for smaller graduation events for each of its 19 campuses. The decision follows weeks of unrest in its main Manhattan campus.

The university's campus was home to pro-Palestine encampments protesting the Israel-Hamas war throughout April, which led to the cancellation of classes. Last week, hundreds of police officers entered Hamilton Hall to remove some 46 protesters after they swarmed the building and arrested more than 100 people also assembling on campus.

The university has been in a state of near lockdown ever since.

Nemat Shafik, Columbia's president, had previously expressed her desire to host the ceremony on campus as one of the key reasons that she called the police on April 30 to remove the protesters and the large tent encampment that had taken over a central lawn for two weeks.

Now, the university highlights security as one of the main concerns when it comes to the decision not to hold the traditional commencement.

"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 in a statement.

The pro-Palestinian encampment at the Columbia University on April 28, 2024 in New York City AFP

Prior to the cancellation, the Ivy League had claimed its campus remained a crime scene, leaving questions as to how some 15,000 graduates and their guests could be admitted to celebrate its May 15 commencement.

The school said it was still "looking at the possibility of a festive event on May 15 to take place of the large, formal ceremony," and that it would follow up with more details. The celebrations for the different colleges will begin on Friday and run through May 16.

Many of this year's graduating seniors also had their high school graduations canceled because of Covid-19 precautions, and many had started their college experience in remote learning.

Columbia is not the first major college to come to this decision. The University of Southern California also canceled its main graduation ceremony earlier in April, while allowing other commencement activities to continue. Students in that school abandoned their camp early Sunday after being surrounded by police and threatened with arrest.

The way the administration has handled its pro-Palestinian demonstrators, including by calling in police to crack down and make more than 200 arrests on two separate occasions, has proved to be deeply unpopular with many students and faculty, according to The New York Times. Officials became concerned that an event meant to unite the campus would divide it further.

Students in these protests demand Palestinian liberation and for their schools to call for a cease-fire and divest their endowments from Israel and companies they say are profiting from the war.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.