Dozens of universities host segregated graduation ceremonies based on 'identities'

More than three dozen colleges and universities are hosting 2022 graduation events based on race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Ohio State University, Columbia University, Harvard University, Illinois State University, the University of North Texas, and the University of La Verne all offer ceremonies based on race.

More than three dozen colleges and universities are hosting 2022 graduation events to recognize minorities based on race, gender, or sexual orientation. 

Groups who qualify for receiving a special graduation ceremony include Black, Latino, Asian, American Indian, and LGBTQ+ individuals. 

At some universities, multiple graduations are held to accommodate numerous groups. 

For example, California Polytechnic State University has an extensive list of minority-centered graduation ceremonies. Events are held for Native Americans, Jews, Asians, LGBTQ+,  disabled, “Chicanx/Latinx”, African-Americans, and Southwest Asian Northwest Africans. 

The university’s website advertises an event titled “Monarch Commencement Ceremony,” which “recognizes and uplifts the accomplishments and success of undocumented students.”

The list also states that the “Black Commencement Ceremony” will feature “[d]istinguished speakers, special student awards, live performances, and the tradition of wearing Kente cloth stoles hand-woven from Africa, all add to the vibrancy.” 

At similar celebrations, such as one being held this year at the University of California Davis, graduates are presented with a “Kente stole.“ This is a type of graduation scarf that features a traditional West African pattern.

Ohio State UniversityColumbia UniversityHarvard UniversityIllinois State University, the University of North Texas, and the University of La Verne all offer race-based ceremonies.

[RELATED: Students support segregated graduation ceremonies for ‘marginalized’ students]

The University of Texas at Austin describes its “Spring 2022 Black Graduation” as “an annual program that gives graduates the chance to commemorate the challenges they’ve overcome and the memories they have made throughout their college years with their classmates, friends, families, professors, and other UT Black community members.”

Harvard drew sharp criticism in 2018 when it decided to hold Black graduation for the first time in its history. 

In response to the criticism, the Harvard Crimson’s editorial board wrote an article that defended the gathering on the grounds that it “brings together black students from all parts of the University to celebrate their accomplishments, acknowledge the challenges faced by students of color on a historically white-dominated campus, and foster a sense of support and belonging.” 

The editors went on to defend all minority specific graduation events, writing that “identity-focused academic celebrations such as Black Convocation, Lavender Graduation, and Latinx Convocation play a vital role in reinforcing our continuous striving toward making Harvard a place where people from all backgrounds feel welcomed, valued, and safe.”

Conservative commentator and founder of the campus advocacy organization Turning Point USA Charlie Kirk called the event “racist and a disgrace to all racial progress made over the last 60 yrs.”

“By the way,” he added, “if you are a black person that goes to Harvard, you are the furthest thing from oppressed.”

[RELATED: Chapman University hosts racially segregated ‘cultural graduation celebrations’]

Other notable schools holding race-based graduations include the University of California San DiegoStanford UniversityCalifornia State University NorthridgeSouthern Illinois UniversityCalifornia State University Sacramento, the University of California Los Angeles, the University of Washington, and Emory University.

At some universities, individualized ceremonies are organized by student groups rather than the college administrators. Such was confirmed to Campus Reform by Columbia University and Texas A&M University, both of whom stated that affinity graduations at their institutions are being held by student organizations. 

At Emory Unversity, as well, a special graduation event is held for women who “demonstrated leadership, inclusivity, and a commitment to making Emory a better place for all.”

A spokesperson for Southern Illinois University told Campus Reform that the institution “is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion” and strives “to provide a welcoming campus” for all students, faculty, and staff to “live, study and work in a respectful, positive environment.”

“As part of that commitment,” the spokesperson continued, “we are proud to recognize and support students in marginalized communities for their accomplishments.”

Similarly, Illinois State University told Campus Reform that it “wants to make sure all students are recognized and acknowledged for their contributions to the University” and that “these events create a unique space that celebrates the completion of degrees and certificates to graduates with the support of families, friends, faculty, and staff.”

Weber State University calls its “LatinX Grad Ceremony” an “intimate celebration that honors the achievements of graduating students who identify as LatinX/Hispanics.”

The university goes on to describe the event as “an empowering cultural celebration including English and Spanish speakers along with performances representing our cultural roots from the Americas” which “seeks to continue inspiring future generations of youth that LatinX students do succeed in college.”

Among the institutions hosting commencement events catered to Latinos are UT Austin, the University of Southern CaliforniaRock Valley CollegeCase Western Reserve University, the University of IllinoisUniversity of California RiversideTexas A&M, Loyola Marymount UniversityDePaul University, and the University of California Santa Cruz.

Events for Asians and Native Americans were comparatively rare, though a fair number of colleges and universities offer them. An incomplete list of such schools includes Yale University, the University of MichiganPasadena City CollegeCalifornia State University Dominguez Hills, the University of Colorado BoulderDartmouth College, and the University of California Berkeley.

Every institution named above has been approached for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.