Columbia University is feeling a social media backlash after media reports surfaced that the New York City-based Ivy League institution is planning to host six graduation events classified by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and other self-identifying factors.
According to the university website, it is expecting to host virtual ceremonies in April, with options including a Native, Asian, Latinx or Black event, as well as a Lavender or FLI event for LGTBQ+ or first-generation and low-income students, respectively.
Since the reports, the university has faced backlash on social media, with Twitter users saying they believe the ceremonies promote segregation and racism, including because there are no ceremonies dedicated to white students.
I’am SHOCKED and call it what it is. It’s not the right thing to do This is a University that I have admire so much and reading this is’ disappointing. I call it segregation. This is the problem with America society. People going to the same ELITE SCHOOl and YET this?— ⚜️ Monsieur Escano (@Aescano) March 17, 2021
Ummmm no. You can’t say you champion diversity and yet hold separate ceremonies for separate groups. The main ceremony equates to equality. Everyone graduates with a diploma in a multicultural setting celebrating their accomplishments together in an inclusive setting— Captain Obvious (@mrsarcasticass1) March 16, 2021
So, if @Columbia claim is true that there is no racism behind these events (implied or actual), where will the White/Caucasian/Western European celebration take place (since these ceremonies are such a 'valuable part of the Columbia graduation experience')? #WhosFoolinWho— Kds4 (@Kds456424445) March 16, 2021
Unless white students are allowed to have one too then these separate ceremonies are racist.— Kate H. (@kate_freedomer) March 16, 2021
In a three-tweet series, the university responded to the backlash by saying that “reports and previous tweets misrepresent [the university’s] multicultural graduation celebrations” and that the celebrations are “voluntary” and “open to every student.”
These events are important, intimate and welcoming spaces for students aligned with these groups to come together to celebrate their achievements if they wish. They are organized in tandem with students and student groups. 2/— Columbia University (@Columbia) March 16, 2021
“The smaller celebratory events held for particular communities are in addition to, not instead of, the main commencement and class day graduation ceremonies,” a university spokesperson said via email. “In most instances, these smaller, multicultural gatherings evolved from ceremonies originally created by alumni and students.”
Others on social media have defended the institution, saying the events are a celebration of multiculturalism and diversity.
Agreed.— SarcastiDOGE (@UnimpressedDoge) March 16, 2021
Too many hoomans here are focusing on COLOR instead of CULTURE.
If an Irish student group threw a "Graduation Ceilidh" celebrating Irish culture, they'd have no problems.
Damn white people do really get triggered when minorities celebrate and come together as communities. Everyone is welcome. Never knew people hated multiculturalism and diversity so much— Rico Suave (@RicoSua70239986) March 16, 2021
From what I can see, these celebrations are meaningful, valuable, and inclusive. It’s too bad so many people seem to feel threatened by these events based on false assumptions and bad takes.— Jaye Baritsu (@JBaritsu) March 16, 2021
Other universities have historically held multicultural ceremonies. Georgetown University, for instance, hosts ceremonies for Asian, African and Latino students.
Since Columbia issued its statement, the university has removed the ceremony names and dates from its webpage and changed the name from “multicultural graduation ceremonies” to “multicultural graduation celebrations.”
And yet the University edited the webpage today, changing "ceremonies" to "celebrations" and removing the listing of the six different events previously listed. Perhaps the problem is the University isn't representing things very well? pic.twitter.com/uMgF6QaX0X— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) March 16, 2021
Columbia University did not respond to requests for additional comment.