At the University of Utah and many universities across the world, graduates will soon be sporting a rainbow of tassels on their mortarboards, each one color coded to represent a specific college or program.
Participants in the U’s Lavender Graduation Ceremony, however, will literally be sporting rainbow tassels.
The ceremony, which dates back several years at the state school, is “our way to honor and celebrate the academic accomplish of LGBT and allied students [undergraduate and graduate] in completing their education,” according to Kathy Martinez, Director of the school’s LGBT Resource Center. Several universities, she noted, also observe such ceremonies under the names Rainbow Graduation, or under the name of a prominent gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender figure at the institution.
The ceremony lasts roughly half an hour and will include remarks from Martinez and from Kari Ellingson, the U’s Associate Vice President of Student Development, and Jennifer Williams-Molock, Assistant Vice President of Student Equity & Diversity. Participants and members of the school’s LGBT Resource Center will also speak.
“I’m just going to take a couple minutes and congratulate them,” said Ellingson. “It’s certainly a milestone in anyone’s life, graduating from college. But quite often the LGBT community is trying to take classes and do all the things any student is trying to do despite some at times unsupportive circumstances.” Queer students, she explained, often choose to come out in college, which can lead to estrangement from their parents.
“It’s not uncommon for a student to find they have to support themselves [while in school],” she said. “Despite that, the students participating in Lavender Graduation have made it. They’ve gotten a home, a major and a degree and are ready to move on to the next phase in their life.”
Martinez said she will likely focus on a similar subject: “The significance of graduating, and that nobody can ever take away your education; that’s always yours.”
At the conclusion of these remarks, the women will present the students with a certificate signed by the LGBT Resource Center and, of course, the rainbow tassel. Students who wish to participate in the ceremony must RSVP by May 5 by emailing Katie Stiel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year’s ceremony will be held in the Olpin Student Union Theatre on May 7 at 5:30 p.m. A dessert reception will follow in the Union Den from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.