Campus Reform | Chapman University hosts racially segregated 'cultural graduation celebrations'

Chapman University hosts racially segregated 'cultural graduation celebrations'

'There is no separate graduation for exceptional academic achievement, but one for someone’s skin color,' remarked one student.

The upcoming ceremonies in July and August still drew criticism for not capitalizing the 'd' in the 'disability Graduation Celebration.'

Chapman University will be hosting segregated "Cultural Graduation" ceremonies in July and August based on various racial and identity categories.

The Chapman University Cross-Cultural Center will be hosting a "Black Graduation," "APIDA Graduation," "Lavender Graduation," "disability Graduation," "Middle Eastern Graduation," and "Latinx Graduation." The "Cultural Graduation celebrations" will take place on July 30, July 31, August 1, August 6, August 7, and August 8.

According to the Cross-Cultural Center's Instagram page, the celebrations are done in addition to the Chapman University main commencement ceremony.

"Cultural graduation celebrations are additions to the university-wide commencement ceremony, students are free to register for these additional celebrations to share the joy of graduation with their friends and family if they choose to," the post states.

In a statement released to Campus Reform, Chapman University’s College Republican’s president Justin Buckner strongly denounced the event. 

“People claiming to be fighting racism are the ones unintentionally re-popularizing it,” Buckner stated. “There is no separate graduation for exceptional academic achievement, but one for someone’s skin color. The lack of attention to exceptional individual achievement while simultaneously only looking through the prism of race is concerning for our future.”

While normally occurring in May, Chapman University’s graduation was moved to late July due to COVID-19. The ceremony is for both the class of 2021 and the class of 2020, who’s graduation last year was cancelled due to the coronavirus.

In a statement to Campus Reform, Chapman’s Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jerry Price defended the “Cultural Graduation Ceremonies” and said that they are “held to honor the dedication and resilience of students from underrepresented communities. Price said there are “no restrictions on student participation” as “students of any race who identify as allies of these groups” can attend.

But that sense of inclusivity did not prevent criticism. 

One person on Instagram pointed out that the "D" in "disability" was the only identifier that was not capitalized, noting that it is "unintentionally offensive."

"Why is every ceremony capitalized but Disability? It comes off as unintentionally offensive," the person stated.

"This title was made in collaboration with our disability studies minor faculty to raise awareness of the use of people first vs identity first language as many individuals who have a disability, are not only defined by it. If you’d like to learn more, I’d encroached you to reach out to the advisory group on the status of disability and accessibility," The Chapman Cross-Cultural Center responded.

The person who originally complained, however, was not impressed with the response.

"Great, glad they collaborated but the non-capitalization feels exclusionary to some disabled people (like me) too. Also when explaining disability, try to assume you’re not talking to abled people," the person remarked.