Manya Chopra

Staff Writer

Graduation is an important milestone in the lives of those who choose to attend college or university after having completed their secondary education. The pandemic changed the way this milestone is celebrated, leaving students deprived of celebrating the completion of their education in-person with tons of family and friends. However, the graduating class of 2021 wasn’t left completely in the dark as most graduation ceremonies took place in a virtual setting. 

Given the special circumstances formed by the pandemic, Columbia University seized on the opportunity to implement temporary changes to their graduation ceremonies. In the spring of 2021, the University announced that it would be holding separate graduations for Black, Latino, Native American, and LGBTQ+ students. Almost immediately, prominent news channels such as Fox News jumped in with negative commentary on the decision. In fact, many sources claim that Columbia University was bringing back the dreaded practice of segregation and their decision to hold separate graduation ceremonies should be stopped at once. 

The university officials, on the other hand, have a different story to share. A spokesperson for the University explained that “the smaller celebratory events held for particular groups are in addition to, not instead of, the main Commencement and Class Day graduation ceremonies.” And according to the school’s official webpage, the separate graduation ceremonies held for student minorities were merely voluntary events that were open to those who chose to attend. In fact, Columbia’s original mission when releasing their decision to hold separate graduations was to honor students who completed their education successfully in the face of adversity. 

The ethnically based graduations that took place were supported by Columbia’s alumni organizations as well as Multicultural Affairs. Although the advent of holding separate graduations was portrayed with negative sentiments in the news recently, some of these more intimate graduation ceremonies are part of the school’s “long-lasting traditions.” For example, the Black Graduation celebration was pioneered by students of the University in order to be more inclusive of the black student community, a minority in most higher education institutions. Overall, reports of misinformation due to Twitter posts that label Columbia’s separate graduation ceremonies as “segregation” need to be taken with a grain of salt because the intention of the University’s alumni, current students, and other representatives claim otherwise. 

As high school students, learning about controversial events such as separate graduation ceremonies for minority groups can tug at heavy emotions because the reality is that many of us will soon enroll in a college or university. It may make us wonder about our role in the world moving forward, but it is crucial that we remember to be educated consumers of information and understand that there are multiple perspectives to every situation, even during turning-point events in our lives.

Picture Source: Getty Images

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