Fact Check: Is Columbia University Hosting Graduation Events Based on Race, Identity?

Prestigious Columbia University in New York has attracted attention after it was reported to be holding six additional graduation ceremonies for its students based on race, gender, sexuality and income.

A page on the university's website details virtual ceremonies for students who wish to participate in a Native Graduation, a Lavender Graduation for the LGBTQIA+ community, an Asian Graduation, a ceremony for those from first-generation and/or low-income communities, a Latinx Graduation and a Black Graduation.

The additional ceremonies will take place between April 25 and April 30.

"Complementing our school and University-wide ceremonies, these events 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 page adds.

The events cover graduates of Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, General Studies and Barnard College.

Graduates are told they must register by Sunday, March 21, in order to secure their multicultural graduation gift such as tassel and pin, and the deadline to register in order to be listed on the website and at the ceremonies is Wednesday, March 31.

The Claim

The College Fix, a conservative news website focused on higher education and campus activity, reported on the ceremonies on March 8, claiming they were "segregated" ceremonies.

Mercy Muroki, senior researcher at The Centre for Social Justice and graduate student in social policy at the University of Oxford, also tweeted on March 6: "Racially and sexually segregated graduation ceremonies. One of the 'best' universities in the world. 2021.

"The cheek of calling them 'Multicultural Graduation Ceremonies' when they are literally based on singular 'cultures.' If you want to know what going backwards looks like, this is it."

Several days later, Fox News picked up on the additional ceremonies at Columbia.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) described his outrage while sharing the article on social media.

"The endpoint of critical race theory: segregation," Cotton tweeted. "Critical race theory is the belief that people have value based on the color of their skin, and that our race defines everything about us. It's not just false-it's dangerous.

"The problem is not just one 'woke' university embracing discrimination. Critical race theory is being pushed on our kids at school, it's peddled by HR departments at corporations, and the Biden administration has embraced it under the guise of 'racial equity.'"

The Facts

There are additional graduation ceremonies taking place at Columbia University for people choosing to celebrate with people of their own ethnic backgrounds or sexual orientation.

However, this is not new and has happened at a number of colleges for years.

The ceremonies are also not compulsory, and a general graduation for all students is scheduled for Friday, April 30, at 10:30 a.m.

In a statement to Newsweek, the university said: "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."

The Ruling

Mostly True.

While there are additional ceremonies taking place for Columbia students, these aren't compulsory and are not taking place at same time or instead of the main ceremony attended by all graduates.

The additional events are also mostly created by alumni and students, rather than the university.

The school said they are not an example of "segregation," as suggested by conservative figures.

Columbia University
Graduating students attend the Columbia University 2016 Commencement ceremony in New York on May 18, 2016. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images