Columbia U. cancels all-campus graduation ceremony citing 'security concerns' as other universities follow suit

A week after NYPD arrested 200 demonstrators on campus, Columbia cancels main graduation ceremony in favor of more limited events; Jewish student whose mother was supposed to see him graduate: 'We'll now need to seek alternative ways to celebrate'
Columbia University announced Monday, just days after the University of Southern California (USC), the cancellation of its central commencement ceremony, initially planned to take place as it does every year on the campus lawn, that had been occupied by a pro-Palestinian protest tent until recently.
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מפגינים פרו פלסטינים באוניברסיטת קולומביה
מפגינים פרו פלסטינים באוניברסיטת קולומביה
Protesters at Columbia
(Photo: REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs)
Citing "security concerns," the university said in a statement that "All-school ceremonies scheduled for the southern lawn of the Morningside campus will be moved elsewhere. Responding to our students' input, we've chosen to prioritize 'class days' and faculty-level graduation events, where students receive individual recognition among their peers, and will skip the all-university event set for May 15."
Omer Lubton-Granot, a master’s student at the School of International and Public Affairs, voiced his frustration and disappointment. "This is capitulation to terrorism. It was meant to be a meaningful occasion for us, with my mother visiting the U.S. for the first time to watch her firstborn graduate. We'll now need to seek alternative ways to celebrate. Columbia University should be ashamed," he said.
For over a week, the main campus has been accessible only to those who study or live there. "Our students have highlighted the significance of more intimate, school-specific celebrations for them and their families. They look forward to get up on stage amid applause and familial pride, and listening to speeches from their respective schools' guest speakers," according to the university. "Therefore, we are directing our efforts toward these school-specific ceremonies, ensuring they are safe and respectful, making sure they go off without a hitch."
This move follows the arrest of more than 200 demonstrators by the New York Police Department on the campus just a week ago. Columbia requested that the NYPD remain on campus to secure the area until at least May 17. University President Minouche Shafik said that the call for police intervention stemmed mainly from a desire not to "deprive thousands of students, their families and friends of their graduation celebrations."
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מפגינים פרו פלסטינים באוניברסיטת קולומביה
מפגינים פרו פלסטינים באוניברסיטת קולומביה
Brainwashed by TikTok?
Emory, a private University in Atlanta, has decided to scale back and move its upcoming graduation ceremony, pointing to security issues as the primary cause for this alteration. In a similar vein, the University of Vermont has withdrawn its invitation for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, to open its' commencement.
This move came as a concession to pro-Palestinian students, who agreed to dismantle their campus protest site in exchange. These students had previously insisted on the speech's cancellation, denouncing Thomas-Greenfield as a "war criminal" due to the U.S. veto of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN Security Council.
Graduation ceremonies across the United States have seen various disruptions. At the University of Michigan, a large group of students displayed Palestinian flags and banners during the main graduation event. A Northwestern University student showcased blood-stained hands, symbolizing the violence in Gaza. At the University of Toledo in Ohio, the valedictorian leveraged her keynote speech to decry what she termed Israel's "crimes against humanity" in Gaza.
First Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who is Jewish, is set to engage with Jewish students at the White House on Monday to discuss their recent experiences on college campuses. This session is the first of its kind since the onset of pro-Palestinian encampments at various educational institutions, advocating for severing financial and educational ties with Israel.
Disturbances at Michigan Universitty
(Video: Yaron Tzefadia)
The group "Young Democrats," which represents more than 20,000 members under 36 years old, has publicly criticized President Joe Biden's approach to handling campus protests. Although the group pledged to back Biden in the upcoming election, they expressed frustration with what they perceive as the administration's slow response to the conflict and its failure to effectively address the issues important to young adults.
They were particularly upset by Biden’s characterization of the protests as "violent and disruptive," contending that, at times, political movements require a degree of upheaval to effect change. Additionally, the organization urged Biden to reconsider his policy of unwavering support for Israel, a stance they believe has contributed to severe consequences, including widespread bloodshed and hardship for Palestinians.
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