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Columbia University cancels main 2024 commencement ceremony, will host multiple ceremonies instead

Columbia's main graduation ceremony canceled
Columbia's main graduation ceremony canceled 02:48

NEW YORK -- Columbia University is canceling its main commencement ceremony after weeks of protests and turmoil on campus

Instead of one single commencement ceremony, the various schools involved will hold smaller, individual ceremonies, the university announced Monday. 

The ceremonies won't happen on the South Lawn, where the larger commencement ceremony had originally been scheduled to take place on May 15, and where students had been encamped until police cleared them out

The protesters had pitched tents and then occupied a building, demanding an Israel-Hamas war ceasefire and the school divest from companies that they said profit from the war. 

Many Jewish students CBS New York spoke with said the protests made them feel unsafe, at-risk, and harassed.

"By canceling graduation the university is giving in to both of those demands. They are shutting it down and canceling joy," student Elisha Baker said. 

A university official said security concerns were one of the main reasons behind the school's decision. 

The university said despite the changes, the students will get the celebration they want, and the revised plan is a result of conversations with students about what sort of program they preferred. 

"We are determined to give our students the celebration they deserve, and that they want," Columbia said in a statement. "Based on their feedback, 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."

Most of the school-based graduation ceremonies will now take place at the schools' Baker Athletics Complex, which is about five miles away. Tickets are required. 

"Our students emphasized that these smaller-scale, school-based celebrations are most meaningful to them and their families. They are eager to cross the stage to applause and family pride and hear from their school's invited guest speakers. As a result, we will focus our resources on those school ceremonies and on keeping them safe, respectful, and running smoothly. A great deal of effort is already underway to reach that goal, and we understand the Deans and school teams are looking forward to working with their students to incorporate the most creative and meaningful ideas to celebrate this extraordinary moment," the university said.

"It's a bittersweet ending... we also had our classes online, and no high school graduation," senior Esin Gogus said. "I'm frustrated, but I am OK with it as long as, you know, the safety and well-being of students is ensured. I think that's totally fine."

"I just heard it's always crazy. The streets are filled with parents, everyone is excited, and now I won't get to experience that," dental student Ari Rosen said. "I wish they took control a littler earlier and didn't let it get to this point." 

House Speaker Mike Johnson again calls for Columbia's president to be fired

News of the change reached Capitol Hill. 

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson released a statement, again calling on Columbia's board to fire President Dr. Minouche Shafik

"President Shafik and Columbia University administrators have displayed a shocking unwillingness to control their campus. 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," Johnson said. "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. Our once great universities desperately need strong moral leadership, now more than ever."

Johnson had previously visited the campus while the encampment was still up, and called for Shafik's ouster at that time. He also said the National Guard should be considered, if necessary, to remove campus protesters.

Schedule of Columbia commencement ceremonies

Friday, May 10
• 8:30 a.m. - Professional Studies, Morning Ceremony | Baker Athletics Complex
• 12:30 p.m. - Professional Studies, Afternoon Ceremony | Baker Athletics Complex
• 4:30 p.m. - Social Work | Baker Athletics Complex
• 5:30 p.m. - Columbia Climate School | The Forum

Saturday, May 11
• 8:00 a.m. - Business School, EMBA & PhD Candidates | Baker Athletics Complex
• 11:30 a.m. - Business School, MBA | Baker Athletics Complex
• Architecture, Planning and Preservation | St. Paul's Chapel

Sunday, May 12
• 8:00 a.m. - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, PhD | Baker Athletics Complex
• 10:00 a.m. - Baccalaureate Service | St. Paul's Chapel
• 11:00 a.m. - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, MA | Baker Athletics Complex
• 3:00 p.m. - The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, Graduate Ceremony | Baker Athletics Complex

Monday, May 13
• 8:00 a.m. - Columbia School of General Studies | Baker Athletics Complex
• 11:45 a.m. - The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, Undergraduate Ceremony | Baker Athletics Complex
• 3:30 p.m. - Law School | Baker Athletics Complex
• 7:30 p.m. - International and Public Affairs | Baker Athletics Complex

Tuesday, May 14
• 9:30 a.m. - Columbia College | Baker Athletics Complex
• 10:00 a.m. - School of Nursing | The Armory
• 10:00 a.m. - Physical Therapy | Alumni Auditorium, CUIMC
• 3:30 p.m. - Genetic Counseling | VEC 201, CUIMC
• 4:00 p.m. - Mailman School of Public Health | The Armory
• 5:00 p.m. - Business School, MS | David Geffen Hall, Manhattanville Campus
• Teachers College | United Palace Theatre

Wednesday, May 15
• 12:00 p.m. - Journalism School | Roone Arledge Auditorium, Lerner Hall
• 2:00 p.m. - Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons | The Armory
• 4:00 p.m. - Barnard College | Radio City Music Hall
• 7:00 p.m. - School of the Arts | Roone Arledge Auditorium, Lerner Hall
• Teachers College | United Palace Theatre

Thursday, May 16
• 10:00 a.m. - Occupational Therapy | Alumni Auditorium, CUIMC
• 10:30 a.m. - Dental Medicine, Predoctoral | The Armory
• 2:00 p.m. - Institute of Human Nutrition | Alumni Auditorium, CUIMC
• 4:00 p.m. - Dental Medicine, Postdoctoral | The Armory 

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