Columbia president ‘sorry’ for canceled commencement amid anti-Israel protests, now faces ‘hard questions’

Columbia University President Minoush Shafiq said Wednesday that the university has canceled major university graduation ceremonies in favor of smaller events, citing safety concerns from anti-Israel protests that have hit campus in recent weeks. He apologized to the students.

In an op-ed published in the magazine, Shafiq wrote that he “deeply regrets” those who graduated from Ivy League universities. Columbia Daily Spectator.

“Canceling traditional graduation ceremonies was one of the toughest demands in a year of many tough demands,” Shafik wrote. “We recognize that the past few months have taken a huge toll on your university experience, and we are deeply sorry for the disappointment many of you may have felt as a result.”

University officials last week canceled a university-wide graduation ceremony that was supposed to be held Wednesday due to safety concerns in the wake of a wave of anti-Semitic protests, with a series of smaller “school days” and school-level ceremonies. announced that it would be replaced by 100 people arrested.

Handcuffed Columbia University student tears up diploma in protest

Columbia University President Minoush Shafiq told graduates that he “deeply regrets” the cancellation of university-wide graduation ceremonies. (Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File)

Shafiq also acknowledged that anti-Israel protests have placed a “strain” on the campus community, including Jewish members.

Student protesters gather for a protest at an encampment on Columbia University's campus.

Student protesters gather for a protest inside an encampment on the Columbia University campus on Monday, April 29, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Stephen Jeremiah)

“The conflict between the rights of pro-Palestinian protesters and the impact their protests have had on some members of the Jewish community makes this moment particularly difficult.” Shafik wrote.

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Shafik wrote that she and other university leaders “must ask a series of tough questions” in the wake of the anti-Israel protests.

Pro-Palestinian supporters gather in front of Columbia University

On April 22, 2024, an anti-Israel rally will be held on the steps of the Lowe Library on the grounds of Columbia University in New York City. In response to recent unrest on campus, the university chose to hold a small ceremony rather than a large graduation ceremony. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

“For example, we know that virtually no one, including the police, wants police on our campuses,” she wrote. “So what are our options for agreeing to and enforcing our own norms and rules to ensure that everyone is safe and able to continue their academic endeavors?”

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Mr. Shafiq concluded by mentioning the difficult circumstances that this year’s graduates had to face from the time they enrolled until their graduation.

“Your university experience was ruined by COVID-19 and conflict. It made you keenly aware of how events happening in the world affect our lives. No doubt about it,” she wrote. “You are the future leaders of a world that needs you more than ever.”