Students march and rally on Columbia University campus in support of a protest encampment supporting Palestinians, despite a 2pm deadline issued by university officials to disband or face suspension in New York City, on April 29, 2024. Image Credit: REUTERS

Washington: Columbia University on Monday cancelled its university-wide commencement ceremony scheduled for May 15 in favour of smaller, school-based events after weeks of pro-Palestinian protests roiled the Ivy League School.

“We have decided to make the centrepiece of our commencement activities our Class Days and school-level ceremonies, where students are honoured individually alongside their peers, rather than the University-wide ceremony that is scheduled for May 15,” Columbia said in a statement, calling the past few weeks “incredibly difficult for our community.”

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The Ivy League institution said it would "forego the university-wide ceremony that is scheduled for May 15" and hold a series of smaller events instead.

"We are determined to give our students the celebration they deserve, and that they want," Columbia announced, saying "smaller-scale, school-based celebrations are most meaningful to them and their families."

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"We will focus our resources on those school ceremonies and on keeping them safe, respectful, and running smoothly. A great deal of effort is already underway to reach that goal," the university said.

The protests at Columbia, which drew national attention, have inspired similar demonstrations at dozens of universities around the US.

Students have called for a ceasefire in Gaza and have demanded their schools divest from companies with ties to Israel.

New York City police cleared a Columbia campus building last week that had been barricaded by pro-Palestinian protesters, arresting more than 100 people and dismantling an encampment.

The school said on Monday it had consulted with student leaders in deciding how to handle graduation.

The majority of the ceremonies, which had been set to take place on the Morningside Heights campus where most of the protests have taken place, will be moved to the university’s main athletic complex, the statement said.