Columbia University Students Tear Up Diplomas While Donning Zip-Ties and Brandishing Palestine Flags at Commencement

The first two ceremonies for the School of Professional Studies proceeded smoothly on Friday morning and afternoon.

Graduating students at Columbia University wore handcuffs, played Palestinian flags, and tore up diplomas during their graduation ceremony amid ongoing controversies surrounding the university. Friday's commencement came on the heels of weeks of confrontations between pro-Palestinian protesters, administrators, and law enforcement at Columbia University.

However, some students showed resilience. One social work graduate boldly crossed the stage with her hands zip-tied above her head, as cheers sounded from the audience. As the event was live-streamed, she turned toward the crowd and tore up her diploma. The university announced it would cancel its main commencement last Monday, citing safety concerns. Instead, dozens of smaller ceremonies will be held in its place.

In Protest

Columbia University graduation
A student seen tearing up her diploma during commencement at the Columbia University X

The first two ceremonies for the School of Professional Studies proceeded smoothly on Friday morning and afternoon. However, the graduation for the School of Social Work sparked discussion as protestors began to make their presence felt at the Baker Athletics Complex.

Several students wore keffiyeh scarves, closely associated with the Palestinian liberation movement. Two students brandished 'Free Palestine' signs as they received their diplomas, while another carried a flag with the slogan 'Divest Now,' urging the university to withdraw its economic and academic ties with Israel.

Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine shared a clip of the ceremony on Instagram, accompanied by a caption declaring, "The students reminding us all of Palestine at EVERY SINGLE GRADUATION."

Also, a photo of a student's graduation cap with the message 'Acknowledge the Class of 2024 of Gaza and those who will never graduate' was posted to the account.

The protests continued into Monday during ceremonies for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Some PhD students chose to boycott the graduation entirely, resulting in rows of empty seats. During the later commencement for master's students, several waved Palestinian flags as they walked onstage.

Protests Intensify

Columbia University graduation
A student seen with her hands zip-tied during the commencement at Columbia University X

On April 30, officers from the New York City Police Department arrested dozens of protesters and cleared a building that had been seized a day earlier. School officials said they called the police to campus for the second time in less than two weeks after Hamilton Hall was reportedly "vandalized and blockaded."

Students barricaded themselves inside the building and hung a banner reading 'Hind's Hall' from a balcony, in reference to six-year-old Hind Rajab, who was killed by Israeli security forces in January.

The NYPD told the Daily Mail that over 100 protestors were arrested after police disbanded the 'Gaza solidarity camp,' concluding a two-day sit-in in mid-April.

President Nemat Shafik requested officers to maintain a presence on campus until at least May 17 to prevent similar occupations.

In a recent development, a group of 13 judges appointed by Donald Trump wrote a letter to Shafik expressing their refusal to hire student protestors as law clerks. The judges asserted they had "lost confidence in Columbia as an institution of higher education," labeling the school "an incubator of bigotry."