Segregated graduations separate students by identity
The list of 17 'Lavender,' 'Latinx,' and other identity-based commencements compiled by Campus Reform includes both public and private schools and three schools in the Ivy League.
Many universities are hosting special commencements based on race, sexuality, country of origin, and even socioeconomic status.
Campus Reform analyzed upcoming spring 2023 graduation ceremonies at 17 colleges and universities. These schools are hosting separate commencements based on race, sexuality, country of origin, and even socioeconomic status.
The list of identity-based commencements compiled by Campus Reform includes both public and private schools and three schools in the Ivy League. Media coverage of affinity or multicultural graduation ceremonies suggests an uptick in 2019. This is roughly the same time that scholars label “peak wokeness,” or the height of political correctness around racial justice, gender and sexuality, and other issues of identity.
A 2019 report from the National Association of Scholars (NAS) identifies 125 colleges that “segregate graduation ceremonies.” More recently, Campus Reform documented the dozens of colleges hosting identity-based graduations in 2022 and the popularity of the “Lavender Graduation” for LGBTQ students.
Campus Reform reported at that “nearly every aspect of Yale [University’s] programming and administrative processes, including admissions, recruitment, graduation, counseling, alumni programming, and the curriculum are drastically impacted by racial segregation.”
Twelve colleges on Campus Reform’s newest list offer an LGBTQ graduation, usually hosted by a multicultural center or office for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Ceremonies focused on ethnicity or heritage often rely on broad categories, such as the “Asian, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Desi-American”–those from the Indian subcontinent–graduation at Harvard.
Harvard University and California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo have graduations for students with disabilities, while Harvard and Columbia University offer graduations for first-generation college students. Columbia’s ceremony also includes the “low-income community,” according to its website, and Cal Poly hosts “Monarch Commencement,” which “uplifts the academic accomplishments and personal successes of the undocumented and DACAmented.”
In a statement to Campus Reform, Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Allendale, Mich., writes that its Asian, Lavender, Native American, Latinx, and Black ceremonies are “not ‘segregating graduation ceremonies by race,’ as some people and outlets have alleged.”
“These more intimate celebrations are a complement to GVSU’s Commencement and are open to all students and their supporters,” Brian Vernellis with University Communications continues.
“GVSU is also proud to support celebrations leading up to commencement based on how students identify and how they chose to engage with the university,” he added.
University commencements can also include a catch-all multicultural ceremony. Columbia and Texas Woman’s University in Denton offer these commencements even as they host “Southwest Asian North African” and “La Raza” ceremonies.
Duke University recently explained its consolidation of affinity ceremonies in its student newspaper, The Chronicle.
“In previous years, there have been individual celebrations for students in the Asian/American & Pacific Islander, Latinx and Native American communities,” an Apr. 12 article reads.
Duke’s Center for Multicultural Affairs (CMA), however, will now host a catch-all ceremony, a decision that The Chronicle reports as “an intentional shift to ‘honor the [ever-evolving] representation of [its] student body,’ according to a post from the CMA’s Instagram.”
“Hosting one Multicultural Graduation Ceremony,” The Chronicle continues, “was more inclusive of students who identify with multiple identities, and was ‘institutionally more sustainable and feasible’ for staff members.”
Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly.