Republican Sen. Tom Cotton caused an uproar Tuesday by blasting the multicultural graduation ceremonies offered by Columbia University as "segregation." He was apparently outraged by a Fox story that said the university would host "six separate graduation ceremonies based on income level, race, ethnicities." Cotton and other commenters seemed to believe the university was separating students by race and income for different commencement ceremonies, when the different ceremonies are in fact optional additions to the main April 30 commencement ceremony and have been offered for years at Columbia and many other universities, the Columbia Spectator reports. Cotton slammed Columbia as a "woke university embracing segregation" and said it was part of a bigger "problem" that also involved schools, corporate HR departments, and the Biden administration.
The six extra ceremonies at Columbia, which do not overlap with each other or with the main ceremony, include Native, Asian, Latino, and Black graduations, along with the Lavender graduation for LGBT students and one for first-generation, low-income students, USA Today reports. Members of the latter group spent years pushing for their own ceremony before the first one was held in 2017, the Spectator notes. Columbia tweeted that the separate ceremonies, which will be held virtually this year, are voluntary and in most cases "evolved from ceremonies originally created by students and alumni." Fortune reports that Columbia chemical engineering professor Faye McNeill strongly criticized the "disingenuous and bile-filled" take on graduation events. "It takes a special kind of negativity" to target these events, especially after the very difficult year students have just endured, McNeill tweeted. (More Columbia University stories.)