New York congressman tells Columbia he wants to give students the graduation 'they deserve' after school start canceled

Rep. Anthony D'Esposito, R-N.Y., wrote a letter Wednesday to Columbia President Minouche Shafik, requesting a list of graduating students from his district so he can hold “the graduation ceremony for them that 'they deserve' after the Ivy. The League school canceled its main commencement ceremony.

D'Esposito said he found it “dismaying that Columbia University students were deprived of their admissions ceremony,” noting that, for some, “obtaining an advanced degree is so far the pinnacle of their lives – a milestone celebrated by family and friends. and my loved ones.”

In May 2020, many senior students missed their high school graduation ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These students have worked extremely hard, invested a tremendous amount of money, and have successfully completed the requirements to be proud to graduate,” the letter obtained by Fox News Digital states. “Your failure to maintain order on campus, keep students safe, and stop hateful violence has led to this.”


D'Esposito on campus

Rep. Anthony D'Esposito, R-N.Y., speaks alongside House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., at Columbia University April 24, 2024, in New York. (Alex Kent/Getty Images)

D'Esposito asked Shafik “to provide a list of students who live in New York's Fourth Congressional District, and I will work with community leaders and government partners to provide them with the graduation ceremony that they deserve”.

“Columbia’s leadership has failed these students,” he added. “We won’t let them down either.”

Columbia University announced Monday that it has canceled its university-wide commencement ceremony due to disruptions caused by recent anti-Israel protests. Students will still be able to celebrate in a series of smaller graduation ceremonies, held at schools, this week and next. Those ceremonies will take place about 5 miles north of the Columbia Sports Complex campus, officials said.

The protests began nearly three weeks ago at the Ivy League university in New York. The measure has since swept college campuses across the country, with more than 2,500 people arrested in total, the Associated Press estimated.

The university's grand graduation ceremony was scheduled for May 15 on the university's main lawn in Manhattan, where a protest encampment stood until authorities dismantled it last week. University officials said the past few weeks have been “incredibly difficult” for the community and they decided to cancel the ceremony after discussing it with students.

anti-Israeli protesters in Colombia

Anti-Israel agitators march from Columbia University to Hunter College as protests at area universities and colleges continue on May 6, 2024 in New York. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


Shafik issued a statement on May 1 justifying his decision to “ask the New York City Police Department to intervene to end the occupation of Hamilton Hall and dismantle the main encampment as well as a new, smaller encampment “. The university president was questioned before Congress about rising anti-Semitism at the Ivy League school last month, and the next day she authorized police to enter campus to arrest more than 100 persons.

Shafik on campus amid anti-Israel protests

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik visits Hamilton Hall on the Columbia University campus on May 1, 2024, in New York. Police arrested nearly 100 people as they cleared the university of protesters. (Indy Scholtens/Getty Images)

But as anti-Israel protests intensified and police noticed that “outside agitators” had come with the intention of escalating the situation, Shafik chose for several days to keep the police away from the scene. private property of the school. On May 1, she acknowledged that “university leaders spent eight days of long hours engaging in serious and good-faith dialogue with representatives of the protest,” and that “the University offered to consider further proposals on divestment and shareholder activism, to review access to our double diploma”. global programs and centers, to reaffirm our commitment to freedom of expression and to launch educational and health programs in Gaza and the West Bank.

“It’s going to take time to heal, but I know we can do this together,” Shafik wrote.


“I hope we can use the coming weeks to restore calm, allow students to complete their academic work, and honor their achievements at Commencement,” she added. “We must also urgently continue our ongoing dialogue on the important issues that have been raised in recent months, in particular the balance between freedom of expression and discrimination and the role of a university in contributing to better results in the Middle East These are two topics on which I hope Colombia can lead the way for new thinking that will make us the epicenter, not only of the protests, but also of the solutions to the world's problems.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Leave a Comment