Columbia University cancels graduation ceremony in wake of pro-Palestinian protests, arrests

NEW YORK — Columbia University is canceling its university-wide commencement next week, citing security concerns after weeks of campus protests over the war in Gaza, officials announced Monday.

Most school-level graduations will continue as scheduled, but any ceremonies planned for the main campus lawns — where an antiwar encampment demanding Columbia divest from Israel sparked a nationwide campus protest movement — have been relocated.

“We are determined to give our students the celebration they deserve, and that they want,” read the announcement.

Columbia is “looking a the possibility of a festive event” on May 15 — when university-wide commencement was originally scheduled — to replace the large, formal ceremony, it continued.

University officials had repeatedly said they needed to clear the tent demonstration to set up for graduation.

Last week, the Columbia administration called in the NYPD to end the takeover of a campus building, Hamilton Hall, and dismantle a pro-Gaza encampment, leading to 109 arrests in and around campus. During the raid, an officer accidentally fired off his gun inside the building.

It was the second time in recent weeks that University President Minouche Shafik turned to police to shut down the tent demonstration, which was first erected hours ahead of her appearance at a congressional antisemitism hearing.

Columbia requested the NYPD remain on campus through May 17, after all school-level ceremonies have ended.

The Morningside Heights institution’s decision to cancel its main graduation ceremony comes after the University of Southern California made a similar call after weeks of campus protests over Israel’s war in Gaza.

This past weekend, protesters interrupted commencement ceremonies at the University of Michigan.