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These Colleges Are Canceling Their Graduation Ceremonies Due To Campus Unrest

After weeks of speculation, schools have officially begun canceling their 2024 graduation ceremonies due to weeks of unrest on college campuses. Security concerns are the main reason cited for the changes in plans, according to school officials.

Unfortunately, these cancelations have been weeks in the making. On-campus protests and counter-protests surrounding the Israel-Hamas war have been ongoing since Hamas’ Oct. 7, 2023, attack on Israel and Israel’s subsequent declaration of war. However, the unrest reached unprecedented levels in mid-April 2024 as pro-Palestine encampments began springing up on campuses across the country, sparked by the initial encampment on Columbia University’s campus starting April 17. During these protests, students have said they feel unsafe at their own schools, especially due to sharp increases in reports of antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Many school officials are grappling with decisions to restore order and ensure safety on campus. Some have called in the police to disband protests; others have agreed to hear arguments from pro-Palestine supporters in a formal setting. Now, with the end of the semester here, some schools are beginning to reconsider their commencement plans.

Unfortunately, these graduation cancellations hit especially hard of the graduating class of 2024 — because they were also the high school graduating class of 2020, when COVID forced schools across the world to cancel those ceremonies too.

“We as a whole senior class have never had a real graduation,” @gracieflynn12, a TikToker and student at the University of Southern California (the first college to cancel its main graduation ceremony this year) said in an April 25 video. “I understand that a lot has been going on at USC with protests and everything; I just feel like there could have been a different way to go about this than to cancel the entire graduation for a class that never even got a high school graduation, either.”

Here are the colleges that canceled their 2024 graduation ceremonies, so far.

The University of Southern California

On April 25, USC became the first major college to cancel its main graduation ceremony. The May 10 commencement was canceled following controversy over the cancelation of the school’s valedictorian’s speech following backlash due to the valedictorian’s support of Palestine. On May 2, the school revealed it would host a “Trojan Family Graduate Celebration” on its football field on May 9 in lieu of its big graduation ceremony.

Columbia University

On May 6, Columbia University announced it will not be holding its traditional university-wide commencement ceremony, which was scheduled for May 15. Instead, the university is opting for “smaller-scale, school-based celebrations.” This comes after severe unrest and police presence on the campus, which previously led to the school’s April 22 decision to switch to a hybrid class model for the remainder of the semester in attempt to protect students’ safety.

Barnard College

As an affiliate of Columbia University, Barnard graduates also usually participate in Columbia’s main graduation ceremony. So, because that ceremony is canceled, Barnard students are also missing out on that commencement. However, the college will still have its traditional Barnard-only ceremony at Radio City Music Hall.

Time will tell whether more schools follow suit, but considering protests are ongoing as of May 6, as graduation draws nearer and nearer for many schools, more canceled or modified commencement plans are likely.

Her Campus will continue reporting on colleges that decide to cancel graduation in the coming days.

Lexi Williams is the Senior Editor at Her Campus, where she spearheads the site's Life and News coverage — including academics, national news, digital news, and viral news. She also oversees our Gen Leaders and Dream Jobs franchises, and works with the national writer team, interns, and freelance writers. Dedicating her career to helping college students, teens, and twentysomethings live their best lives, Lexi became obsessed with all things Gen Z through her previously held editorial positions at Elite Daily and Dorm Therapy. Before that, she dabbled in the food and wine space at Wine Spectator magazine, where she learned to balance her Champagne taste with her Two-Buck-Chuck budget. Lexi's bylines have also appeared in Cosmopolitan, InStyle, Bustle, StyleCaster, and Betches, among others. She graduated magna cum laude with her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Miami in 2016. Originally from Florida, Lexi currently lives with her husband in Brooklyn, New York, where she spends her days scouting the best pizza spots, working on her debut novel, perpetually redecorating her apartment, and taking too many photos of her yappy little rescue dog, Benji. For pitches, contact Lexi at lexiwilliams@hercampus.com. For a healthy dose of Millennial cringe, follow her on Instagram at @lexi___williams.