Columbia University is under fire from conservative-minded folks after plans to have six different supplemental graduation ceremonies for those of different income, sexual orientation and racial identities to celebrate were announced.

The Ivy League institution, which is located in New York City, released information about plans for both their general graduation ceremony, which was for the whole university, as well as the separate plans from each individual school—such as the Business School, Journalism School, Public Health and Nursing—to award their students from the Class of 2021 with degrees. However, a nomination form for students to receive Multicultural recognition and cords, revealed that the school will also sponsor six additional ceremonial celebrations, which allow students who identify in different groups to attend another ceremony.

Among them are the Native Graduation, scheduled for April 25, Lavender (LGBTG+) Graduation for April 26, Asian and FLI (lower income) Graduations for April 27, Latinx Graduation for April 29 and Black Graduation for April 30.

After the story was picked up by Fox News, however, backlash and outrage from conservatives was swift, as they angrily accused the school of promoting segregation.

However, others quickly came to the University’s defense, pointing out that a quick search of the website showed the ceremonies were optional and supplemental to the main event—and even hosted by student groups for the communities represented, similarly to how other student organizations, such as sororities and fraternities, would honor their specific members. It was also quickly pointed out that other schools have held similar events in the past as well, and that these were also not any different from when the different schools hosted their own events as well.

All ceremonies are set to be held virtually this year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the backlash, Columbia released a statement on Twitter detailing the truth about the events.

“Reports today and previous tweets misrepresent our multicultural graduation celebrations, which exist in addition to, not instead of, University-wide commencement and individual school Class Days,” the statement read. “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.”

“In most instances, these celebrations evolved from ceremonies originally created by students and alumni,” the statement continued. “They are open to every student. They are voluntary. And they have become a highly anticipated and valuable part of the Columbia graduation experience.”

Students walk across the campus of Columbia University in New York
Columbia University is one of three New York City higher education schools that reinstated mask mandates due to the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in the state. In photo: students walk across the campus of Columbia University in New York in this picture taken October 2, 2009. REUTERS