Columbia University responds to backlash over ‘multicultural graduations’

The Ivy League institution is being accused of segregation on social media.

(Photo credit: Getty Images).
(Photo credit: Getty Images).

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. 

— Captain Obvious (@mrsarcasticass1) 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.” 

“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. 

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.” 

Columbia University did not respond to requests for additional comment.

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