Columbia cancels graduation ceremony amid pro-Palestine campus protests

New York Police officers patrol inside Columbia University in New York City on May 6, 2024. (Photo/AFP)

Columbia University, the epicentre of US student protests against Israel's carnage in Gaza, has cancelled its main graduation ceremony, as colleges seek to contain the demonstrations — dubbed Student Spring — that have rocked campuses for weeks.

The Ivy League school in New York, where at least 100 pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested last week, cited security concerns on Monday as it cancelled the ceremony scheduled for May 15, with smaller events planned instead.

"We will focus our resources on those school ceremonies and on keeping them safe, respectful, and running smoothly," Columbia said in a statement.

Some students angry at the decision signed an online petition to overturn it, which had more than 1,400 signatures on Monday.

"They have plenty of money... But instead, they chose the laziest option possible," politics student Ally Woodward, 24, told the AFP news agency, referring to university leaders.

Conservative judges boycott Columbia grads

Meanwhile, a group of 13 conservative US federal judges said on Monday that they would not hire law students or undergraduates from Columbia University in response to its handling of pro-Palestine demonstrations.

The judges, all appointees of former US president Donald Trump, called the Manhattan campus an "incubator of bigotry" in a Monday letter to Columbia president Minouche Shafik and Law Dean Gillian Lester.

"Both professors and administrators are on the front lines of the campus disruptions, encouraging the virulent spread of antisemitism and bigotry," the letter said.

The letter called for "serious consequences" for students and faculty who participated in campus disruptions and for the enforcement of free speech rules.

Trump — President Joe Biden's competitor in November's presidential election — has accused him of being soft by failing to condemn the pro-Palestinian supporters.

Trump referred to protesters at Columbia as "raging lunatics and Hamas sympathisers" and called on college presidents to "take back our campuses."

Widespread protests and crackdowns

Police have cracked down on pro-Palestine protests in the past week, with some university presidents explicitly requesting law enforcement support.

Columbia's president, Minouche Shafik, faced criticism for calling in police to clear protesters who had barricaded themselves inside a university building.

Dramatic scenes followed, with helmet-clad officers marching handcuffed demonstrators out of the university grounds onto police buses.

Students of Columbia, one of America's most elite universities, were among the first to mobilise against Israel's war in Gaza and demanding universities divest from Israel, in protests that spread across the United States, with police arresting around 2,500 people nationwide.

On Saturday, riot police were filmed breaking up a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where at least 25 people were arrested.

Police arrested dozens of people on Monday at the University of California, San Diego, as they began dismantling tents set up by pro-Palestine demonstrators.


Source: TRT