Columbia University cancels main graduation due to security concerns over protests

The university will instead focus solely on its smaller, school-based ceremonies.

Edric Robinson

May 6, 2024, 10:17 PM

Updated 11 days ago


Columbia University has announced the cancellation of its main graduation ceremony due to security concerns arising from weeks of protests on campus. The university will instead focus solely on its smaller, school-based ceremonies.
The decision marks a departure from the grand commencement hosted on the school’s Morningside lawn. The university stated, "Our students expressed that these smaller-scale ceremonies are more meaningful to them and their families."
Originally scheduled for May 15, the main ceremony has been a longstanding tradition dating back to 1926. It celebrates the academic achievements of graduates from 19 schools, with degrees symbolically conferred by the university president.
“My parents had to travel halfway around the world to see my commencement, I think I would be disappointed but at the same time I think it's clear the situation here is not standard,” said Zdenek Otruva, graduate student.
“I wasn’t excited to go to begin with, people would've wanted to be heard then and I think either way it would've been unfortunate,” said Mia Kiesman, an electrical engineering senior graduating on Monday.
The smaller ceremonies, which will be held through individual schools, are not new. That's where graduates get to hear their names called and walk across the stage. Security experts say managing these smaller ceremonies will make things easier for the university, as Columbia’s main ceremony can host about 65,000 students on the lawn.
“It’s going to be much easier to monitor maybe a couple hundred people than it is going to be monitoring thousands. Certainly much easier to deal with a protester in a smaller crowd than in a larger crowd, less eyeballs and quite frankly I think it makes it less attractive to protesters because you’re not going to have as many people in those particular events,” said Jason Russell, founder/president of Secure Environment Consultants
The majority of individual school ceremonies will now be held at Columbia’s Baker Athletics Complex, with tickets still required for attendance. Additionally, the university is considering organizing a festive event on May 15 in lieu of the formal ceremony.

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