Chapman students celebrate at Commencement
Photo Credit: Chapman Newsroom

By The Hesperian Staff

Students at Chapman University are worried that Chapman’s “cultural” graduations will create division and frustration within the Chapman community.

Chapman hosted six different cultural graduations over a two-weekend span during July 30 through August 1, and August 6 through August 8. 

According to Chapman’s Cross-Cultural Center, the “Cultural Graduation Ceremonies are intended for any graduate who identifies with a specific community and provide an affirmational space for graduating students to celebrate.” 

These groups include Black, APIDA, Lavender (LGBTQ+), Disabled, Middle Eastern, and Latin people. While some students hail the school for their brave support of “diversity and inclusion,” other students of these groups are worried about what this push by Chapman may do to increase divisiveness and tribalism within the University’s community as a whole.

According to one of the Chapman Cross Cultural Center’s posts on Instagram, the graduations are supposed to be an addition to the regular graduation. 

“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 says.

Gage Jennings, class of 2021, was invited to attend the lavender LGBTQ+ graduation, but did not attend because he felt like individuality was more important than a group-identified graduation.

“The whole idea of celebrating people’s achievements centered around a specific defining characteristic about a person is counterintuitive in my opinion.” Jennings said, “We should not be focusing on factors that divide us… instead we should celebrate the things that we all share, which is our achievement of accomplishing our college education.”

While Jennings does admit that two years ago he would have agreed with these graduations, he now believes that everyone should root their identity in individuality rather than in a community.

Keenan Pasztor, class of 2021, was invited to attend the black graduation. Pasztor did not attend because she never felt different than anyone during her time at Chapman, and understood the double standard she believes exists in exclusive events based on the color of skin.

“Graduation is supposed to be a time of community and celebration school wide.” Pasztor stated, “If white students were to hold a “white” graduation ceremony, everyone would be up in arms about how that is racist, but when black students or LGBTQ+ students hold separate ceremonies, it’s okay.”

While Pasztor doesn’t believe these graduations should be banned, she does believe that if they exist, they need to be on an even playing field, and Chapman should not be directly involved in it. 

“If a group feels so inclined to hold a separate ceremony, they should be 100% responsible, not the university,” Pasztor explained. 

Abbey Umali, class of 2021, was invited to attend the disability graduation. Umali chose not to attend because she felt the future repercussions of the ceremony were too immense.

“I think the idea of the graduations are coming from a good place, because they want people to feel included when they’ve probably felt excluded,” Umail said. “But I think they have the potential to continue going in a direction that is dangerous.”

Umali explained that her concern is that, over time, it would become normal to separate students based on group identity, instead of how they actually are as individuals. A “divisive line” would be added to the Chapman community, while false and misguided pretences of diversity and inclusion would do the opposite.

As the coming years approach, we can only wait and see if any more “cultural events” will be used on Chapman grounds, and whether students and faculty choose to unite or further divide.

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