Grad ceremony shortened, event for LGBTQ+ added


Photo credit: Genevieve Humphreys

Illustration by Genevieve Humphreys

As classes grow and students continue to clamor for more graduation tickets, the university is looking to make alterations to the graduation ceremony, as well as add new events to Senior Week.

This year’s graduation ceremony will be shorter, with no outside speaker or designated student speaker. Rather, Danny Anderson, president of the university, will deliver a keynote address, and 2018 SGA president and senrio Amulya Deva will speak on behalf of students.

“The reason we shortened the ceremony is because last year, there was an outside speaker and they went 10 minutes or 15 minutes more than they were supposed to go, so that’s part of the reason they decided to change from an outside speaker to Dr. Anderson because we can trust that he will stay within time,” Deva said. Deva was a student representation on the graduation planning committee.

While there was discussion within the committee to move the ceremony off-campus, they ultimately decided to keep the ceremony in Laurie Auditorium.

“We talked about potentially moving the ceremony off-campus because of the space limitation because as you know, it’s a fiasco to get graduation tickets when you’re a senior because you only get four,” Deva said. “We talked about moving it off-campus, but that wouldn’t really work because a lot of off-campus venues are booked already because of high school graduation. We would really be at the mercy of the opening to determine our graduation date. On-campus is easier. Also, it’s nice to be able to go take pictures on your campus after graduation, and parking is a little bit easier on-campus because we know where to park, where not to park. Downtown it would be more difficult for things like that.”

One of the biggest additions to the senior week line up will be a Lavender Graduation Ceremony, which honors LGBTQ+ students, as the De Colores and Kente ceremonies celebrate Latinx and black students respectively. Students who participate in the Lavender ceremony will receive lavender cords.

“As the director of the Diversity and Inclusion Office, I thought it would be a great opportunity to celebrate our LGBTQ+ graduates,” wrote Alli Roman, director for Diversity and Inclusion, over email. “It is important to host the Lavender Ceremony to celebrate and honor our LGBTQ+ students and their community. Doing so with the support of family, friends and allies is important. A ceremony such as this one not only benefits graduating seniors but also the LGBTQ+ students that are coming behind them.”

Steven Drake, first-year and PRIDE community liaison, elaborated on the importance of the ceremony.

“This ceremony is so important for the LGBTQIA+ community because it is a time to celebrate the achievements of graduating seniors within our own community,” wrote Steven Drake over email. “Visibility and a sense of belonging are two extremely important factors when it comes to the LGBTQIA+ community. We need to be visible so that other people in our community know that there is a place for them on campus, and with that, we need a sense of belonging so that everyone feels the warmth and security of belonging to a community.”

Drake also explained the significance of the color lavender.

“It’s also important because of the historical background that the ceremony has. It was started by a Jewish lesbian who was not allowed to attend her child’s graduation due to her sexuality, so she decided to establish a separate celebration that was just for the LGBTQIA+ community and their families. The lavender color comes from the combination of the pink triangles that identified gay Jewish men during the Holocaust and black triangles that were used to identify lesbian political prisoners in Nazi Germany,” Drake wrote.

Roman sees other ceremonies for underrepresented groups on-campus being added in the coming years.

“I think right now I will be looking at how to continue to support the growth and development of the already existing cultural ceremonies. However, one potential ceremony or reception could be for our first-generation college students. For students who are the first one in their families to go to college, graduating from college is a big deal. I, however, can see it taking place perhaps sometimes earlier in May. There are options,” Roman wrote.

This fall, the graduation will propose splitting the graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 into two parts, one for those graduating with a Bachelor’s of Arts and a second for those graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science.

“We talked about how class sizes are getting bigger, so we would have to deal with that by giving students fewer tickets, so instead of having four tickets, we would get three,” Deva said. “There’s going to be two ceremonies, and there’s a gap in the middle, and you know how after graduation, everybody goes onto Coates, that would take place between the two ceremonies. The drawback is that half of these people haven’t graduated, so they don’t have their diplomas, but instead of four tickets, you get eight.”

The plan still has to be approved by the Office of the President.

“The Commencement and Convocation Committee has considered a number of revisions to the Spring Undergraduate Commencement ceremony, including a division of the ceremony into two ceremonies. We plan to recommend these changes to the President in the near future,” wrote Duane Coltharp, associate vice president for academic affairs and member of the university planning committee, over email.