Ariel Zilber, Daily Mail, March 16, 2021
Columbia University has been slammed for ‘bringing back segregation’ after announcing additional commencement ceremonies for students based on their ethnicity, income level, and sexual orientation.
The six virtual ceremonies, which will be staged in addition to the general campus-wide commencement event, were announced by Columbia’s Multicultural Affairs department.
Special events are being held for black, LGBTQ, Native, ‘Latinx’, low-income, and Asian graduates.
But the university insisted these ceremonies are ‘voluntary’ and ‘open to every student who wants to participate’ – even those that do not identify as one of the designated minorities – in a statement to DailyMail.com.
Conservative commentator Candace Owens tweeted: ‘Congratulations are in order for liberals and @Columbia University for successfully bringing segregation back by packaging it as “diversity inclusion”. Just one question: which ceremony do bi-racial children attend?’
The main, university-wide commencement ceremony for the Ivy League school in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan is scheduled to take place online on April 30 at 10:30am.
The six other ceremonies will be held virtually on other days.
A ceremony for students of Native American extraction is scheduled to take place on April 25 at 4:00pm.
LGBTQ graduates are invited to take part in a ‘Lavender’ graduation set to take place on April 26.
Asian American students will have their ceremony on April 27.
There is also an ‘FLI’ graduation – which is categorized as ‘first-generation and/or low-income community’ – scheduled for April 27.
A ‘Latinx’ graduation ceremony has been scheduled for April 29 and a separate event for black students is due to take place on April 30.
A spokesperson for Columbia University told DailyMail.com: ‘Columbia marks graduation every spring with a university-wide Commencement ceremony and Class Days for the graduates of each of our schools.
‘These events bringing together all of our graduates and their families are a high point of every academic year.
‘The smaller celebratory events held for particular groups are in addition to, not instead of, the main Commencement and Class Day graduation ceremonies.
‘In most instances, these smaller, multicultural gatherings evolved from ceremonies originally created by alumni and students.
‘The gatherings are voluntary, open to every student who wants to participate, and have become a highly anticipated and meaningful part of the Columbia graduation experience.’
According to the Multicultural Department web site, the separate events are organized cooperatively by student organizations, alumni groups, and ‘university partners.’
The ceremonies will ‘provide a more intimate setting for students and guests to gather, incorporate meaningful cultural traditions and celebrate the specific contributions and achievements of their communities.’
The events are open to ‘all Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, General Studies and Barnard College graduating seniors.’
The plans to stage separate ceremonies in addition to the main event sparked heated debate on Twitter, where some accused the school of promoting segregation.
One Twitter user commented: ‘Is calling it a “celebration” supposed to make it ok?
‘What about “celebrations” exclusively for the kids who are rich or connected? Are we cool with that?
‘Or just ask yourself this: is it divisive, or is it inclusive? Because the former isn’t progress.’
Stacy Crouse tweeted: ‘This is so ridiculous! How is this happening and how do we stop it?!’
Another Twitter user commented: ‘What about my children who are [African American] and adopted from foster care?
‘While we didn’t change their race (obviously didn’t want to), their [socioeconomic status] certainly changed and they became children with completely different futures.
‘Where would they fit?’
Another Twitter user commented: ‘It’s still pretty insane though that its being done in collaboration with the university.
‘People can celebrate their graduation outside of school with whoever they want, but the school is low key participating in racial segregation, absurd.’
Others, however, claimed the controversy was much ado about nothing, and noted that many universities have held special ceremonies for select groupings in addition to the main commencement event.
Tia Landry tweeted: ‘A quick search around Columbia University’s website shows that those separate ceremonies are literally organized and supported by alumni groups and student organizations to get the recognition they deserve.
‘Columbia has a main ceremony that includes everyone.
‘Stop the bull****.’
Landry added: ‘Just to be clear, these ceremonies are ON TOP of the main graduation ceremony for all graduates.
‘None of these ceremonies even happen on the day of the main one.
Another Twitter user commented: ‘I went to Lavender & BIPOC graduations on top of the main ceremony and I loved the smaller graduations so much more.
‘I’m so thankful we had our own traditions, culture & space to acknowledge each other instead of solely just the weird alcoholic party that was main graduation.’
Another Twitter user wrote: ‘My school had special ceremonies for graduating students like this (I was honored at a lavender graduation).
‘Thanks for highlighting this and what it means for people who won’t read beyond a headline.’
Samantha Sutliff tweeted: ‘Most schools do this. UMiami where I went to school had a Latin students graduation.
‘My sister’s school had a Black and Chicano graduation.
‘They also have separate ceremonies for degree programs.
‘Everyone goes to the big one and then they have extra separate ceremonies.’
Last month, North Carolina‘s Elon University cancelled an event for ‘white-identifying’ students to process their complicity in racial injustice following complaints the meeting excluded students of color.
The existence of the upcoming ‘White Caucus’ was first revealed by the Young America’s Foundation (YAF).
The conservative organization published an email, said to have been sent by Elon’s Coordinator of Graduate Programs Jennifer Strange, that specified the aim of the event was to allow white ‘allies’ to speak openly about systemic oppression without ‘re-traumatizing people of color’.
‘We know that racism and systemic oppression are woven deeply into the roots of our society and our education system,’ the email read. ‘White caucusing is one part of a lifelong and multifaceted commitment to anti-racism for white-identifying people who are passionate about racial justice.’
The email further stated that the caucus would give white students a ‘space to learn about and process their awareness of and complicity in unjust systems without harming their friends of color.’
But the caucus, slated to take place on February 16, was canceled after the YAF called it a ‘segregated’ event and students of color complained, Fox News reported.