Should colleges separate graduations based on demographic?


Fact Box

  • Segregation is defined as “the policy of keeping one group of people apart from another and treating them differently, especially because of race, sex, or religion.” Segregation was practiced in America until the Civil Rights Movement encouraged the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, ending legal discrimination “on the basis of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
  • A National Association of Scholars (NAS) 2019 report evaluating the reemergence of segregation in schools found that in 173 public and private schools studied nationwide, 43% offered residential segregation, 46% had segregated orientation programs, and 72% had segregated graduation ceremonies, although students were permitted to opt-out. 
  • In recent years, several prominent colleges made headlines, such as Columbia University, Harvard, Yale, Williams College, and Rutgers University, for offering separate graduation ceremonies or housing opportunities based on race/ethnicity or sexual identity. 
  • An April 2022 Pew Research poll found that “Blacks, Hispanics, and Asian American adults are more likely than White adults to say race, or ethnicity [...] first-generation status should be factors in college admissions.”

Dae (Yes)

Colleges and universities nationwide are increasingly adopting the practice of separating graduation ceremonies based on demographic characteristics such as race/ethnicity, sexuality, or socioeconomic status. While some may view this as a form of segregation, there are several compelling reasons why this approach promotes diversity, inclusivity, and recognition.

Firstly, separating graduation ceremonies based on demographic allows for a more inclusive and celebratory environment, particularly for historically marginalized groups. These ceremonies provide a space for students to celebrate their achievements in the context of their identity and cultural heritage, creating a more supportive and uplifting atmosphere. It also sends a powerful message that the institution recognizes and values the diversity of its student body.

With that in mind, demographic-based graduation ceremonies provide a sense of community and belonging for students who may not feel fully represented in the larger graduation ceremony. Many students from underrepresented communities may feel overlooked in the broader ceremony, and having a separate ceremony can help address these feelings with more personalized experiences. 

Lastly, many demographic-based graduation ceremonies have cultural or historical significance that is important to honor and celebrate. For example, Black students may participate in a Kente cloth ceremony, which has roots in West African culture and symbolizes academic achievement and community. These ceremonies provide an opportunity to recognize and celebrate each group's unique cultural traditions. 

Separating graduation ceremonies based on demographic characteristics may initially seem like a form of segregation, but it can promote diversity, inclusivity, and individual recognition overall. These ceremonies provide a more celebratory and supportive environment for students, honor cultural traditions, and help build a stronger sense of community within the institution.

Elliot (No)

Separating graduations (and, in some cases, dorm living) based on demographics is not only a bad idea but also illegal. The Civil Rights Act explicitly prohibits treating people differently based on race, gender, sexual identity, age, or any other 'protected class.' For example, if we separated white students from Asian students for graduation ceremonies and so on, that would violate the Civil Rights Act. This is precisely what people hoped to avoid when they passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964. 

Publicly-funded schools already face legal consequences if they violate the Civil Rights Act. For example, vocational schools in Massachusetts were accused of violating the Civil Rights Act in February of 2023 when they allegedly denied admission to students of color. Although the intentions might be good, separating graduations based on demographic is the exact same offense under the Civil Rights Act. 

It also goes against the Declaration of Independence, which states that all Americans are equal. If we're equal, we should be treated equally. 'Equity' is a nice idea in theory, but in this context, it would create unnecessary divisions in an already fractured country. If we go down this path, we will encourage schools to train their students to look at each other and treat each other differently based on their demographic. 

Segregating people based on race directly caused the civil rights movement in the US decades ago; it wasn’t right then or now. However, Marxist indoctrination in schools—from higher education to even preschooling entertainment—teaches people to see each other only as oppressed/oppressors, the haves and have-nots. This naturally produces separation and resentment. Splitting students into groups based on their demographic shows little societal advancement since the 'Whites only' days.

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