Grand Valley State University (GVSU), the third- and fourth-largest tertiary educational institution in Michigan by undergraduate population and overall enrollment, respectively, announced last month its plan to have separate ceremonies for Black, Asian, Hispanic or "Latinx," Native American and so-called LGBTQIA+ students.
GVSU described the graduation ceremony for so-called "Latino/a/x students" as "an opportunity to come together and acknowledge [Hispanic American] accomplishments in the spirit of traditions of culture."
Similarly, the GVSU described the graduation celebration solely for Black students as an avenue to celebrate all "that is representative of Black, African American and African tradition, heritage, culture and legacy."
Ceremonies solely for Black students and Native American students have been ongoing for several years. The ceremony for the former has been held since 2016, and the latter ceremony is known as the annual "Native American Graduation Feast."
Another special graduation ceremony solely for so-called LGBTQIA+ and allied students, known as the "Lavender Graduation," will celebrate their "personal and academic achievements."
This graduation ceremony will also award one graduating student an "Outstanding LGBTQIA+ Graduate Award," which is given "to an exceptional student graduating in the Fall or Winter semester of 2023 … who self-identifies as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community."
While the university has made it clear that these smaller ceremonies would not replace the general commencement ceremony for all students, this has not stopped people from being concerned by the move. (Related: WOKE ACADEMIA: Princeton student says school's new ban on cheating "unfairly targets" non-Whites.)
"Ridiculous," noted conservative commentator Matt Walsh of the Daily Wire. "Grand Valley State University is holding five segregated graduation celebrations, singling out Asian, Black, LGBT, Hispanic and Native American graduates. There will be no special celebrations for straight White people, of course."
GVSU defended its decision to host the segregated graduation ceremonies, noting that there is still one large graduation ceremony for all students.
"Grand Valley State University holds unified commencement ceremonies for all of its graduates. GVSU is not 'segregating graduation ceremonies by race,' as some people and outlets have said," the university stated.
"Grand Valley also welcomes student organizations and faculty leaders to hold smaller-scale celebrations designed to honor graduates. These more intimate celebrations are a complement to GVSU's commencement and are open to all students and their supporters," continued the university. "The vast majority of graduating students who participate in these celebrations also choose to participate in our larger commencement ceremony where degrees are conferred."
Several other higher education institutions have hosted similarly segregated graduation ceremonies in recent years.
Columbia University in New York City hosts smaller graduation celebrations for certain "affinity groups" on campus, including "Lavender (LGBTQIA+), Asian, First-Generation and/or Low-Income, Black, Latinx and Native American communities," according to the university. Harvard University hosts similar smaller graduation ceremonies for Black, Asian, Hispanic and LGBTQ students.
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