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Tense Campuses and Police Barricades Mark New York’s Commencement Season

University commencement season in New York City starts on Friday, in a climate that is anything but normal.

Turmoil over protests related to the Israel-Hamas war is seemingly everywhere. At N.Y.U., dozens of graduate student workers are threatening to withhold grades if the university does not remove police officers from campus. At the Fashion Institute of Technology, the police made more than 50 arrests on Tuesday after breaking up a pro-Palestinian student encampment there.

At City College, Fordham University, The New School and Columbia, the police have made arrests after being called in by administrators to clear out pro-Palestinian student encampments and end other demonstrations.

The police barricades that still remain outside many college buildings are a visceral reminder of the intense divisions on campus, a marked contrast with the usual festive mood around the city each May, when thousands of students walk the city streets in their robes and regalia.

At Columbia, where a police crackdown on a large Gaza solidarity encampment on April 18 sparked an international student movement to pitch tents in protest, parents of graduating students peered through locked gates on Thursday at the green lawns and empty steps where their children’s commencement should have been.

Nemat Shafik, Columbia’s president, announced on Monday that the school was canceling its main commencement ceremony, largely for security reasons. Instead, each of its 19 colleges will hold a separate ceremony, many at the school’s large athletics complex some 100 blocks north.

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