Duke University combines previously segregated graduations into one extra ceremony for all 'marginalized community members'

The school opted to hold a single extra ceremony instead of several individual identity-based ceremonies like in years past.

Duke claimed it was 'more inclusive of graduating student communities who identify with multiple cultures, communities, and intersecting identities.'

On April 11, Duke University hosted the school’s first “Multicultural Graduation Ceremony,” hosted by the Center for Multicultural Affairs.

This event was different from past years in that the school hosted one larger ceremony instead of several smaller identity-based ceremonies. 

In a since-deleted RSVP form, the school explained why it opted for a single ceremony, noting that it “is institutionally more sustainable and feasible for the staff,” and is “more inclusive of graduating student communities who identify with multiple cultures, communities, and intersecting identities.”

[Related: Segregated graduations separate students by identity]

The form also says the event supports “coalition building” and “encourages the Duke community to critically consider what radical coalition building and cross-cultural connection/ bridge building across a multitude of diasporas can look like in real time.”

It says that the ceremony is a chance for community members “to honor the accomplishments of each graduating class, especially as marginalized community members who have navigated and surmounted countless systemic barriers, expectations, and narratives that seek to contain and define them.”

The school also distinguished this event from “Final Honors,” which is “specifically for African-American/Black-identified students.” The Multicultural Graduation Ceremony is “open to all culturally-marginalized communities/students of color, as well as African-American/Black-identified students.”

[Related: Duke official apologizes for being ‘insensitive’ to CCP]

The ceremony began with a “land acknowledgment,” and CMA Assistant Director Maij Vu Mai spoke and “invited the energies of their ancestors, those present and the graduates’ descendants.”

The event included a number of student “multicultural diasporic speakers,” including Sandunie Liyanagamage, who spoke on advocacy, saying, “Whether it is to feel supported to express ourselves in the face of narratives that confine us or to break out of the biases that limit us, building a strong community will help us face these barriers.”

Duke University and the Center for Multicultural Affairs have been contacted for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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