Weber State holding ‘affinity’ ceremonies for LGBTQ students, Latinos, others
OGDEN — Members of the LGBTQ community at Weber State can at times feel underrepresented, says Katelyn Blanch, who helps manage the LGBT Resource Center at the university.
They aren’t the only ones, though, and as the end of the spring semester looms, university officials have organized a series of affinity graduation ceremonies for several Weber State subgroups. The aim is to give them a less crowded and more intimate space to celebrate the milestone of getting a degree with others in their cohort.
“I think sometimes people may feel lost in the larger commencement ceremony,” said Adrienne Andrews, Weber State’s vice president of equity, diversity and inclusion. Formal commencement for all students getting degrees — more than 3,400 of them — is set for April 28 and will be held at the Dee Events Center.
The university’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities helped kick off the varied ceremonies on Wednesday with a Lavender Graduation at Shepherd Union. Lavender Graduation ceremonies are held at a growing number of U.S. universities, according to Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group.
“We want to recognize them as they leave and their contributions,” Blanch said. “We want to make sure we have a space to give that recognition.”
Around a dozen participants at the Lavender Graduation ceremony received rainbow tassels and heard a presentation about the history of such celebrations before their names were read out loud to those on hand. “Our LGBTQ+ students are very passionate and have put in a lot of work and they’ve been underrepresented for so long,” Blanch said.
A ceremony for the Pacific Islander community was also held Wednesday. Celebrations were scheduled for Thursday for the Asian community and those involved in WSU Ballet Folklórico, a traditional Hispanic/Latino dance group that puts a focus on making sure participants thrive and remain at the university.
The Latinx Graduation Ceremony, geared to Latinos, is set for Saturday while a ceremony for those of African descent, the African Diaspora ceremony, is set for April 25. A ceremony for Native American students will be held April 27.
Andrews emphasizes that the varied affinity celebrations — affinity groups are groupings of people with a shared identity — are open to all. They are meant as “a complement” to the main commencement ceremony on April 28, not a replacement, she said, allowing participants more leeway to express their “authentic” selves.
Last year was the first at Weber State with a full array of affinity celebrations, though Latinos at the university first held a special ceremony for that community in 2019. Now, Andrews said, the university wants to introduce affinity celebrations as a formal staple of the varied graduation events each year.
“We want to make Lavender Graduation a staple of the LGBT Resource Center,” Blanch said in a press release. “It’s really cool to walk with your rainbow stole or tassel. It meant a lot to me when I was a student.”
At the main commencement ceremony on April 28, certain specific groups of graduates are also typically recognized, according to Andrews, including first-generation students, graduates with families and graduates with a military background.
The commencement speaker at the main ceremony will be Steve Starks. He’s chief executive officer of the Larry H. Miller Co. and a Weber State graduate recently appointed to the Utah Board of Higher Education.
The most popular majors among graduating Weber State students this year are nursing, psychological science, criminal justice, communication, computer science and professional sales, according to the university.