More Universities Jump On Trend Of Holding Race-Based Graduation Events

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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  • Several universities are holding individual graduation events to celebrate students who identify as a specific race or sexual orientation.
  • The events are held separate from the larger commencement ceremony and aim to recognize students in a smaller environment.
  • Stanley Goldfarb, board chair of medical watchdog group Do No Harm, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the trend is “another example of how academia is signaling its dedication to identity politics and pushing radical ideology instead of acknowledging people as individuals and focusing on quality education.”

Multiple colleges and universities across the country are holding different graduation celebrations and events for students based on their racial and backgrounds and sexual orientation.

The different events are held for students based on their racial or sexual identity and are in addition to the larger, official commencement ceremony honoring this semester’s graduates, according to the various event descriptions. University of Oklahoma (UO), Illinois State University (ISU), Georgetown University, California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly), Arizona State University (ASU), Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and Harvard University are among the schools that have events scheduled for spring graduates. (RELATED: ‘Asian Graduation,’ ‘Black Graduation’: Columbia University Holding 7 Different Ceremonies For Students)

“Segregated graduations divide the student body at exactly the time that students should celebrate their common achievements at their alma mater,” Adam Kissel, visiting fellow on higher education reform at the Heritage Foundation, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Segregated events make the sadly common mistake of presuming that people with the same racial identity should be treated separately because their race makes them essentially the same. Americans overcame segregation long ago, but too many colleges are bringing it back.”

UO’s Multicultural Graduations are hosted by its Multicultural Programs & Services and the Gender + Equality Center and “offers a more intimate celebration of students’ academic journeys,” according to its website. The graduation celebrations, which are held on separate days, are designated for American Indian, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black, “Latinx” and LGBTQ+ students.

“Multicultural Programs and Services in the Office of Student Life at the University of Oklahoma offers a wide range of programming, services and involvement opportunities throughout the year focused on engaging all students with educational opportunities to learn about the many cultures represented on campus,” a university spokesperson told the DCNF. “This includes achievement ceremonies to honor the many accomplishments students have achieved personally, professionally and academically every year where each cultural community offers a smaller and unique celebration. The events planned for the fall, spring and summer graduates of the 2022-2023 academic year are open to anyone interested in attending, regardless of background.”

At Illinois State University, four separate graduation ceremonies will be held for “underrepresented students to celebrate their successes and graduation in a unique way,” its website reads. The four ceremonies are for Middle Eastern, Asian, Pacific Islander and Southeast Asian students, “Latinx” students, LGBTQ+ students and students “of African descent and from the African diaspora.”

“Participation in these ceremonies is completely voluntary and does not take the place of University commencement,” the website clarifies. “Any graduating student is welcome to participate in these events. ”

ASU scheduled various convocation ceremonies in addition to its graduate and undergraduate commencements, according to its schedule. These “special interest” events are “a time for smaller groups to gather and celebrate students’ graduation” and to honor students more individually, the website reads.

It will include separate events for American Indian, Asian/Asian Pacific American, Black African, Hispanic and LGBTQ+ students, its website shows. There is also a special ceremony for student veterans.

“It’s important to note that other than the military veterans ceremony, anyone can participate and be recognized in these ceremonies regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, etc,” an ASU spokesperson told the DCNF. “For the veterans ceremony, you have to have served in the armed forces to be recognized and receive an honor stole. However, anyone can attend any of these ceremonies and enjoy the festivities.”

Harvard University has nine scheduled celebrations for students including programming for Arab graduates, graduates with disabilities, Indigenous graduates and those who are first-generation graduates, according to its event schedule. The programs are “student-led, staff supported events that recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of graduates from marginalized and underrepresented communities” and allow the students to celebrate in an environment focused on their “cultural traditions and values.”

Conservative commentator Matt Walsh called out Grand Valley State University, located in Michigan, for scheduling five celebrations for winter semester graduates who are Asian, black, “latino/a/x,” LGBTQIA+ or Native American. He painted the events as “ridiculous.”

“Under the leadership of our volunteer faculty/staff associations and with student organizations, Grand Valley hosts graduation celebrations annually designed to honor our diverse graduates aligned with university commitments to building a culture of educational equity,” a university spokesperson previously told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

GVSU’s individual programs cost approximately $24,420, according to documents obtained by Michigan Capitol Confidential through a Freedom of Information Act request. The Black and latino graduation celebrations cost the most among the five events, tallying $8,450 and $6,150 respectively.

The “Cultural Commencement Ceremonies” at CalPoly are separated into nine events for students who are Asian Pacific Islander Desi American, Black, “Chicanx/Latinx,” disabled, Jewish, LGBTQ+, undocumented, Native American and Indigenous or Southwest Asian North African, according to its website.

Georgetown, an elite institute in Washington D.C, scheduled three multicultural graduation ceremonies for those of Asian heritage, African Diaspora communities and “Latinx” or “Chicanas/Chicanos.”

Stanley Goldfarb, board chair of medical watchdog group Do No Harm, told the DCNF that the trend is “another example of how academia is signaling its dedication to identity politics and pushing radical ideology instead of acknowledging people as individuals and focusing on quality education.” The organization has tracked “several university systems with schools of medicine” that plan to host such events.

“This is problematic in medical training, as future doctors need to learn how to treat patients based on their individual needs rather than automatically placing them into groups,” he said. “Promoting segregation increases barriers in the patient/physician relationship, and this practice must be abandoned in our medical schools.”

ISU, Harvard, Georgetown and CalPoly did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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