Friday, April 24, 2020

Where the heart is. . .

Students set to graduate from high school and college were deprived of more than the final semester of classes.  High school students were left with the uncertainty of the weight of that diploma, the loss of sports related scholarships for some, and the great big question mark about how this all would translate into their start of college.  College students were left with a closed job market as well as the loss of a final semester of classes.  Some of them lost the graduation ceremony.  Some, but not others.  At least at one self-proclaimed Lutheran college.

Commencement exercises at the prestigious ELCA related St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.  The school's official notice suggested the graduation will be "rescheduled for a date in late May/early June of 2021," according to the school's website.   But from the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion at the school came the announcement of three virtual graduation ceremonies (Campus Reform reported) for a special group of St. Olaf graduates.  These virtual graduation ceremonies are exclusively for "self-identified domestic students of color, international students, and LGBTQIA+ students" and will occur at the end of this school year.  All other students must wait until 2021 for their pomp and circumstance.  "This event acknowledges the value and uniqueness of students' experience and serves to commemorate and highlight the accomplishments of individuals within their familial and cultural context," the email said, according to the outlet.

Campus Reform added that the three ceremonies will be called the multicultural, international, and lavender graduations and are intended for students of color, international students, and LGBTQ students, respectively.  So what are we to think?  Which students are at the heart of this college's identity -- one they insist is 
"nourished by Lutheran tradition"


Carl Vehse said...

I'm underwhelmed with what may be nothing more than a FakeNews story.

First, the school's official notice did not "suggest" that "graduation will be rescheduled for a date in... 2021" (nor that commencement exercises were cancelled). It stated that "2020 Commencement festivities have been postponed and will be rescheduled for a date in late May/early June of 2021." In most colleges and universities a graduate does not have to attend commencement ceremonies to receive his graduation diploma (usually by mail).

Second, the Campus Reform article, provides NO direct evidence from St. Olaf administrators that perverts and "people of color" will get a "virtual graduation," but instead claims that the "virtual graduation," announced last Friday in an unsubstantiated "administrative email," will be hosted through the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion.

Third, while allegedly quoting from an alleged email, Campus Reform does not provide the name of the person(s) who sent the email, the name(s) of those it was addressed to, and the date on which this alleged "virtual graduation" will occur.

Fourth, the Campus Reform article does provides a link to the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion, but that website announces that the Center will be closed until May 4th. The Center's website has no announcment of any so-called "virtual graduation."

Fifth, Campus Reform quotes from Associate Director of Communications Kari VanDerVeen (who elsewhere provides her preferred personal pronouns), but in a peculiar way which provides no evidence that VanDerVeen knowingly gave her statement of "ways to celebrate" in the context of referring to the queer and colored "virtual graduation."

Sixth, despite Campus Reform reportedly speaking to Kari VanDerVeen and "multiple graduating seniors," there is no mention of trying to reach the Taylor Center staff (allegedly hosting this "virtual graduation"), whose names, phone numbers, and email addresses are available on the Taylor Center website.

Seventh, St. Olaf College has been involved in "FakeNews" before, when a racist note left on a student's car in May, 2017, turned out to be a hoax, after the initial news about the note caused a massive protest that shut down classes at the college.

Eighth, whether or not there actually will be a "virtual [celebration of] graduation" for some selected groups this year, it should be remembered that St. Olaf is part of the XXXA, which means it's no more a Lutheran college than a Nevada cathouse.

Matt said...

Even if the story is completely true, it is just a story about a particular group on campus holding a celebration of graduation for the specific students they serve. Any student group could do the same. And I suspect any student group could get members of the administration or professors to participate in such a virtual ceremony. Kind of a non-news item here. I am not fond of St Olaf but this just doesn't really qualify as a controversy of any kind.

Anonymous said...

Except that the Taylor Center is an official part of the St. Olaf campus and not some student organization. If you click through to the Taylor Center, you find exactly what is reported here. It may not be the official St. Olaf graduation but an official part of the campus: The Glenn and Myretta Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion aims to
foster an inclusive environment across the intersections of race
and identity that students bring to St. Olaf.

Carl Vehse said...

The referenced Campus Reform report states: "St. Olaf College in Minnesota plans to host three virtual graduation ceremonies."

However, the official St. Olaf statement is: "St. Olaf College’s 2020 Commencement festivities have been postponed and will be rescheduled for a date in late May/early June of 2021."

If there is a link to some official St. Olaf website stating that "virtual graduation ceremonies" for certain types of students will occur in the next few weeks, then, Anonymous on April 25, 2020 at 9:00 AM, please provide such a link.