Students support segregated graduation ceremonies for ‘marginalized’ students

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville's Center for Inclusion and Diversity hosted the events.

Ceremonies included 'Rainbow Graduation Celebration' and 'Latinx Graduation Celebration'

The Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion (CSDI) at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville sponsored segregated virtual graduation celebrations in late April that preceded the formal school commencement ceremonies between May 1-7. 

The CSDI website listed descriptions and qualifications for each of the five individual events. The events included the Black Graduation Celebration, the CSDI Graduation Celebration, the Non-Traditional Graduation Celebration, the Rainbow Graduation Celebration, and the Latinx Graduation Celebration

When asked if he believes these ceremonies create division among students, SIUE graduating senior Beverly James told Campus Reform that he does not think they do.

[RELATED: Berkeley ‘Black Graduation’ under fire for bringing back ‘Democrats’ segregationist history’]

“[The ceremonies] are held by the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion so it is meant to represent those underrepresented groups. I, myself am preparing to participate in 3 of those ceremonies and I believe that it celebrates these groups of people,” James said.

Likewise, graduating senior Evan Senat told Campus Reform that graduation “should not create division, but instead should instill pride and unity in those who identify as members of each group. The fact that these are optional ceremonies separate from the main ceremony that one can participate at one’s own leisure makes it completely acceptable in my eyes.”

Campus Reform has previously reported on similar practices across campuses that extend beyond graduation ceremonies. In January, Chance Layton, Communications and Membership Coordinator for the National Association of Scholars, criticized a “permanent shared space for Black student-athletes” at the University of Pennsylvania that included access to work-study opportunities. 

Layton said that “the intention of creating a space marketed for ‘Black student-athletes and club sport athletes’ is straightforward neo-segregation.”

[RELATED: ‘The endpoint of critical race theory’: Columbia University faces backlash for segregated graduations]

In an interview with Campus Reform, SIUE Executive Director of University Marketing & Communications Doug McIlhagga  said that CSDI started the identity-based ceremonies after Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jeffrey Waple “began receiving feedback that various student constituency groups, who tend to be marginalized in society at-large, would benefit from graduation events that celebrated their academic success.”  

McIlhagga elaborated that “respective colleges and schools tend to have their own distinct pre-commencement events, celebrations, whether they’re awards ceremonies, pinnings for nursing students, hoodings for graduate students and so on.”

But critiques such as Clayton’s focus on those events and spaces that exclude others based on identity. 

”Racially segregated spaces are not ‘separate but equal,’ and they shouldn’t be — they shouldn’t exist, period,” Clayton told Campus Reform earlier this year.

McIlhagga did state that the pre-commencement ceremonies “tie into” SIUE’s statement on diversity.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @redwave1776