Timeline of the nationwide protest movement that began at Columbia University

Columbia University announced on Monday that it has canceled its university-wide commencement ceremony because of disruptions caused by recent pro-Palestinian protests. Students will still be able to celebrate at a series of smaller, school-based graduation ceremonies this week and next.

The protest movement connected to the Israel-Hamas war began nearly three weeks ago at the Ivy League university in New York City. It has since swept college campuses nationwide, with more than 2,500 people arrested.

The university's large graduation ceremony was scheduled for May 15 on the college's main lawn, which is where a protest encampment was based until authorities dismantled it last week. University officials said the past few weeks have been “incredibly difficult” for the community, and that they decided to cancel the ceremony after discussing it with students.

A timeline illustrating how Columbia University became the driving force behind protests on college campuses across the country:



Students set up an encampment at Columbia University the same day university president Minouche Shafik is called for questioning before Congress. Shafik is heavily criticized by Republicans who accuse her of not doing enough to combat concerns about antisemitism on Columbia's campus. Allegations of antisemitism arose during pro-Palestinian protests against Israel's actions in the war in Gaza.

The public grilling session comes four months after a similarly contentious congressional hearing led to the resignations of two Ivy League presidents. Unlike her counterparts, who focused their responses on protecting free speech, Shafik strongly denounced antisemitism, saying it “has no place on our campus.”


New York City police are called to Columbia's campus to disband the protest encampment and arrest more than 100 protesters. Those detained include the daughter of Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who a day earlier had questioned Shafik about the school's treatment of pro-Palestinian protesters.

The arrests, which New York Mayor Eric Adams says were requested by Columbia officials, garner national attention and inflame college protests nationwide. A day later, the University of Southern California announces that it has canceled the keynote commencement speech by filmmaker Jon M. Chu. USC had already disallowed its student valedictorian, who is Muslim, from speaking at the May 10 commencement.

In the coming days, pro-Palestinian encampments will be set up at the University of Michigan, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of North Carolina.


Columbia cancels in-person classes, and an encampment at New York University swells to hundreds of protesters. NYU officials call in police after warning the crowd to leave and says the scene has become disorderly. Police arrest dozens of protesters at NYU and at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. The gates to Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are closed to the public.

President Joe Biden addresses the unrest and seeks to find a narrow middle ground by condemning “antisemitic protests,” adding that he also condemns "those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians.”


Columbia administrators set a new midnight deadline for protesters to clear the encampment. While some leave, others dig in and refuse to disband until the school agrees to stop doing business with Israel or any companies that support the latest Israel-Hamas war.

Elsewhere, police make more arrests on other university campuses. At the University of Texas at Austin, hundreds of local and state police — including some on horseback and holding batons — aggressively clash with protesters, pushing them off campus grounds, and arresting more than 30 people. At the University of Southern California, police peacefully arrest student protesters.


Columbia University students say they're at an impasse after exhaustive negotiations with administrators and they intend to continue their encampment until their divestment demands are met. That comes after hundreds of protesters have been arrested nationwide over the previous nine days. The school sends students an email saying that bringing back police “at this time” would be counterproductive.

Meanwhile, schools across the country where protests have taken root prepare to shut down encampments over reports of antisemitic activity and concerns the protests will mar upcoming commencement ceremonies.


Columbia makes good on its promise to suspend students who defy a 2 p.m. deadline to leave the encampment of more than 100 tents. Instead of vacating, hundreds of protesters remain, marching around the quad and weaving around piles of temporary flooring and green carpeting meant for graduation ceremonies that are scheduled to begin next week.

Around the country, the number of arrests at campuses nationwide approaches 1,000 as the final days of class wrap up.


Dozens of protesters take over Hamilton Hall on Columbia's campus, barricading entrances and hanging a “Free Palestine” banner from a window as administrators warn that they face expulsion for doing so. Protesters insist they will remain at the hall until the university agrees to three demands: divestment from Israel and companies supporting the war in Gaza, financial transparency and amnesty for protesters.

Hours later, New York City police carrying riot shields storm the building and clear dozens of people from it, sweeping the encampment on the campus as well. The action from city police came at the request of the university, according to a police statement.


Columbia cancels its university-wide commencement ceremony. The ceremony had been scheduled for May 15 on the south lawn of the Manhattan campus, where protest encampments were based for about three weeks before authorities dismantled them last week.

Students will still be able to celebrate at a series of smaller, school-based graduation ceremonies this week and next. Those ceremonies will take place about 5 miles (8 kilometers) north at Columbia’s sports complex, officials said.