Multicultural reception is on, stoles uncertain

By Courtney Klaus, Editor-In-Chief

A multicultural graduation reception proposed by students that Newman’s commencement committee and President’s Cabinet initially rejected last week will happen after all.

At Tuesday’s Town Hall meeting, it was announced by Dean of Students Christine Schneikart-Luebbe that steps would be taken to ensure a multicultural graduation reception will happen this year, although the special diversity stoles that were also requested in the proposal still have not been approved.

The request, proposed by Senior Annie Dang and later presented by Director of Multicultural Engagement Joseph Shepard, became controversial in late March, when a commencement committee recommended against the request for a reception. The President’s Cabinet backed the committee.

But after students who supported the reception and stoles expressed their disappointment around campus and in last week’s Vantage, the university changed course.

Schniekart-Luebbe said the university’s initial rejection stemmed from confusion over whether the original proposal was asking for a separate graduation ceremony that conflicted with the official  commencement ceremony or a reception that would happen before.

“In an unfortunate situation where specific words really mattered, an outcome occurred which was completely unintended....Given that the multicultural students want to celebrate their heritage and accomplishments, and that the reception will not take place during the week of NU Graduation, permission has been granted,” Schneikart-Luebbe said.

Dang, who proposed the event to Student Affairs in November, said a separate reception was always what she intended.

Dang spoke at the Town Hall meeting and said that she wanted to make a statement to the administration about what students wanted and to make an argument in favor of having special diversity stoles for graduates to wear at commencement.

She said diversity stoles would acknowledge the struggles many multicultural  and  first-generation  college students face.

“My parents didn’t know what an ACT was... I had to find my own way. I became a student ambassador here for that very reason,” she said. “The stole is a symbol of pride... This is far beyond being Asian. This is what it means to be a Newman student.”

Sophomore Karen Do also spoke at the meeting in support of having diversity stoles at graduation.

“If my parents see that stole at my graduation, they will understand that it is something that’s a part of me. It’s my culture. They will see that it’s apparent that I’m Vietnamese and that I live here as an American... It’s a symbol of who I am,” Do said.

Provost Kimberly McDowell Long responded by clarifying that the policy Newman has in place means “only nationally recognized organizations can be approved” to issue special stoles.

Long added that if students felt strongly in favor of stoles that were not affiliated with a particular national organization, they should look into proposing a policy change.

“All you have to do is work to modify the policy, and that’s an avenue that’s open to students,” Long said.

Dang said had she received feedback on her proposal sooner, she would have looked into proposing an exception or change to the policy already.

President Noreen Carrocci added that all students with a 3.5 GPA or higher will receive a cord at graduation.

PHOTO: SENIOR ANNIE DANG asks the President’s Cabinet a question about having multicultural stoles for students to wear at commencement this year. Courtney Klaus, Editor-In-Chief