College commencement ceremonies are something that students look forward to for four years. (Or longer, depending on your academic acumen.) For the class of 2020, unfortunately, those commencement ceremonies are going to have to wait, given the prohibitions on mass gatherings and the like.
There are virtual ceremonies, of course. If you attend St. Olaf College in Minnesota, you can, in fact, take part in one of these digital ceremonies — provided, of course, you’re not a straight, white male.
According to Campus Reform, the liberal arts school will be hosting virtual ceremonies for minority students at the college but will postpone commencement itself until 2020.
In an email, the school said that “[s]elf-identified domestic students of color, international students and LGBTQIA+ students” will have their own separate virtual ceremonies based on the groups that they self-identified as.
Those three groups would be students of color, LGBT students and international students.
According to a Friday email from St. Olaf’s Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion, each of those groups would get a virtual graduation ceremony.
The Taylor Center, judging by its website, is your typical campus institution that serves the primary purpose of reinforcing negative stereotypes about today’s college students. By its own description, it’s there “to walk with you and celebrate your ‘awesomeness factor.’”
It bills itself as “a place where we critically define progress and discuss change through a lens of impact to those who are underrepresented. We understand that diversity impacts us all differently, and for an area where we are marginalized there is another that we hold privilege. We acknowledge that we all have work to do on ourselves and the institution, because whether it is race, gender, phenotype, language, immigration, sexual orientation, or religion, our responsibility and commitment is to work with one and all aspects that are part of the identities of students.”
That’s enough mealy-mouthed amorphous drivel with no discernible meaning to fuel a decent comedy sketch, but the point is that you don’t have to go and if it forces these views on the campus community as a whole, it’s not clear from the webpage. This is a bit of a mish-mash of nonsense from a college that costs $51,450 in tuition a year, though.
Should this college have one virtual ceremony?
0% (0 Votes)
0% (0 Votes)
The problem arises, however, when you consider that the Taylor Center is honoring 2020 graduates in a way that the school isn’t when it comes to students that don’t fall under its aegis — in other words, the garden-variety straight non-minority American student.
“Due to the impacts of COVID-19, St. Olaf College’s 2020 Commencement festivities have been postponed and will be rescheduled for a date in late May/early June of 2021,” the commencement weekend 2020 page reads. “Please visit St. Olaf’s COVID-19 webpage for specific and up-to-date information”
Campus Reform has spoken to a number of graduating seniors who say they haven’t heard of any online ceremony for the general student population.
When contacted, the school said that it was “exploring a number of ways to celebrate the Class of 2020,” but that nothing had yet been “finalized.”
I understand that online ceremonies don’t take as long to set up as actual ceremonies, but it’s the third week of April. If the school is still exploring options, I’m going to wager the option will end up being the rescheduled commencement in 2021.
Perhaps I’m wrong, but the Taylor Center seems to have gotten its act together a lot quicker than the university proper, which tells me the university proper had not decided to say it was looking into this until it was contacted by Campus Reform.
I understand that nothing is going to make up for missing one’s commencement, no matter the reason. Even with the rescheduled commencement, the graduated class will, one hopes, be in the workforce by next year. If not, they may not have the means or the schedule to travel. A virtual ceremony of some sort would have given them something, at least.
However, as it stands, it seems only some students will get that satisfaction, and that’ll be based not on merit or any reasonable definition of equality, but on identity.
St. Olaf’s Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion may need to change its name.
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.