The location of Saturday's graduation ceremony is currently unknownLouis Ashworth

A graduation ceremony for Cambridge students, set to be held at Senate House at 2pm tomorrow, has been moved to a currently undisclosed location following concerns that Extinction Rebellion (XR) protesters could disrupt the ceremony.

Graduands from multiple colleges received an email on Monday informing them that “on the advice of the University’s security and safety team” the ceremony would “now take place in an alternative venue in central Cambridge and with a revised timetable.”

The email claimed “the University has received credible intelligence that protestors connected with Extinction Rebellion may disrupt the Congregation”. This follows previous action by XR at a Senate House graduation last summer.

Yet a spokesperson for XR Cambridge told Varsity that "nothing was planned, and we have no intention of disrupting graduation". They added that "it's unfortunate" that the University thought that there would be disruption.

Colleges also informed Graduands that they had “been advised not to process in gowns and hoods to the venue”, as is customary at Cambridge graduations.

However they said they “have no reason to believe that these protests will be anything but peaceful.”

The email continued, “the College appreciates that many students and their guests will have been looking forward to graduating in the Senate House, and the University has not taken the decision to put these alternative arrangements in place lightly.”

“Our primary concern is to offer you and your guests a fitting celebration of your achievements while mitigating any serious risk of disruption.”

Graduands and their guests are to be informed of the new venue after noon on Saturday, ahead of the ceremony at 2pm.

The choice was given to defer their graduation to an alternative ceremony, to ensure that they could graduate in the traditional location of Senate House.

However, several Graduands told Varsity that they had already made travel plans which could not be cancelled at short notice.

A PhD graduand in Medical Science told Varsity she was “really upset about this very last minute change, and feel it is extremely unfair”.

The graduand, who has travelled from the USA for the graduation said she had “spent many months’ worth of savings” on the trip, only finding out she would not be graduating at Senate House an hour and a half before her flight.


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Whilst sympathetic to environmental activism, she argued “it is unfair to ask the hundreds of graduands to sacrifice their once-in-a-lifetime graduation because of a small group of protestors.

“The university should either cooperate with the police to patrol the Senate House or to hire security guards to ensure safety.”

Enrique García-Calvo Conde, a Wolfson student due to graduate from his MPhil in Energy Technologies, said he felt “the University is not willing to take the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future”.

A University spokesperson told Varsity: “On the advice of the University's security and safety team, the Congregation will now take place in an alternative venue. The University has not taken the decision to put these alternative arrangements in place lightly, and appreciates that many Graduands will have been looking forward to graduating in the Senate House, and that they and their guests will have made travel arrangements. The University's primary concern is to offer Graduands and their guests a fitting celebration of their achievements while mitigating any serious risk of disruption.

“Graduands were advised that they were able to graduate in person on 22 February at the alternative venue, or to graduate in absence, or to graduate at a later date. Around 90% of attendees have opted to continue with their plans; we would normally expect last-minute changes of around 3% of attendees. We have received two expressions of disappointment from affected Graduands.”

XR have been holding ongoing protests across Cambridge as part of their Rebel for Justice Week, targeting the University, Cambridge City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council.

Their actions have been highly controversial, with eight arrests and a petition against the protests receiving around 8000 signatures.

A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire Constabulary said, “While we have been working closely with city centre businesses, colleges and organisations as part of the ongoing protests, the decision to move any planned events will be for the organisers to make.”

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