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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Multicultural Senior Celebration revamped

< years ago, a group of multicultural students of the class of 2008 decided that they wanted to have an entirely separate graduation to honor their successful navigation of Carleton’s rigorous academic and social settings. Motivated by the desire to celebrate their achievement with people who shared similar hardships as well as those who served as support throughout their four years, they called the event “Multicultural Senior Celebration.”
As senior Chantel Johnson said, the students wanted to be “recognized separately for their accomplishment, having to not only work hard academically but simultaneously combating all the ‘isms’ people of color sometimes experience.”

The planning committee for the event encountered many problems along the way. The first was a conflict regarding time. The planning committee decided to have the event during senior week, a time of year packed with events for departing seniors. The most important conflict was with department celebrations. “Scheduling it during that time put people in a predicament in which they had to decide, ‘do I celebrate my multiculturalism or do I celebrate my accomplishment with my department?’,” said Johnson.

Johnson also pointed out that many of these multicultural students came from low income families who could only afford to fly in a few days before graduation, not a week before. Because the event was planned on such short notice, they also encountered issues with funding. The end result was an attendance of twenty students and speech given by Professor Harry Williams. The celebration did not occur the next year with the class of 2009 because they felt no need for it.

Although the idea initially met some resistance, a completely separate graduation ceremony for multicultural students is a common practice at many higher learning institutions, including Washington State University, University of Minnesota, Texas State University, Loyola University, and University of Vermont.

This year’s multicultural seniors have decided to bring back the event, completely reconceptualizing it, beginning with a new name: “Multicultural Senior Celebration: Passing the Torch.” The event attempts to honor the important strides made by multicultural students while simultaneously engaging the entire Carleton community in this celebration. As the mission statement indicates, “The mission of the Multicultural Senior Celebration is to celebrate and honor the academic accomplishments and community involvement of the senior class. This ceremonial reception aims to foster higher retention rates and academic excellence, as well as motivate future students to continue to thrive. This reception recognizes the important role that students of the multicultural community have dedicated to Carleton’s campus through community service, intellectual curiosity and leadership that has contributed to significant changes both in and out of the classroom.”

Other changes include performances by students and keynote speaker Adrianna Estill, Associate Professor of English and American Studies, and the mission to actively reflect on the experiences of multicultural students at Carleton. The celebration also includes a ribbon pinning ceremony for all the seniors who participate in the event.

The event takes place Saturday, May 29 in two parts. The first part is the ceremony, starting at 1 p.m. in the Great Hall, followed by a barbeque on the lawn next to Scoville beginning at 3:00 p.m. The event received funds from the President’s Office, various academic departments, the OIIL office and CSA. Planned by students from all classes, the event seeks to celebrate the commencement of multicultural seniors while inviting the entire Carleton community to join the festivities.

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