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After Weeks of Protests, Columbia Cancels Main Commencement Ceremony

After weeks of student protests, Columbia University announced Monday that it would be canceling its main commencement ceremony, and holding smaller ceremonies for each of its 19 colleges, mostly at its athletic complex some 100 blocks north.

The university’s main campus has been in a state of near lockdown since last Tuesday, when hundreds of police officers swarmed Hamilton Hall to remove some 46 pro-Palestinian protesters who had occupied the building and arrested more than 100 people protesting in and around the campus.

Columbia has repeatedly said the area remains a crime scene, leaving questions as to how some 15,000 graduates and their guests could easily be admitted to celebrate the May 15 commencement. Dozens of police still surround the campus, and work to prepare the lawns for the massive ceremony had apparently ground to a halt.

Nemat Shafik, Columbia’s president, had previously cited her desire to host the graduation on campus as one of the key reasons that she called in police on April 30 to remove both the occupiers from Hamilton Hall and the large tent encampment that had taken over a central lawn for two weeks.

But on Monday, Columbia officials explained that security was one of the main reasons for canceling the large commencement ceremony.

“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,” the university wrote in a statement.

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