How Parents of College Seniors Are Reacting to Campus Disruptions

The college experience for many of the parents of the Class of 2024 did not begin with the quintessential moment of loading up the car to drive to campus. Instead, parents wished their freshly minted college students luck as they logged on to classes online.

The pandemic meant that for many, there had been no high school graduation ceremonies. Now, some of the families who had to forgo college traditions are facing a graduation season that has been thrown into chaos by a wave of student-led protests sweeping colleges across the country.

Bunting and school banners have been replaced with tents and barricades as students have faced off with chants and dialogue that occasionally has veered into antisemitism, leading to police crackdowns and student suspensions. Some clashes between protesters and counterprotesters have even turned violent.

Many parents interviewed this week said they had been worried about their children’s safety on campus, while others were proud of their participation. Regardless of parents’ politics or feelings about the Israel-Hamas war, many are furious at how administrations have responded — by bringing in the police to tamp down protests, canceling events and communicating sporadically, if at all.

Columbia University in New York canceled its main graduation ceremony on Monday after weeks of unrest on its campus. Separate, smaller ceremonies for each of its 19 colleges will still be held.

Shamsa Merchant, whose daughter, Fayre Khalique, is graduating from Columbia this month, plans to travel from Atlanta to New York City to celebrate with family members. She was disappointed that, once again, her daughter’s graduation would not go according to plan.

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