BY SHANNON WILEY
After Salisbury University’s Student Government Association launched a petition to reverse a decision made by the Provost and Commencement Committee on Feb. 22, President Janet Dudley-Eshbach has overturned the new rule. However, the reversal is only in place, so far, for spring 2016 graduation.
The new rule states that graduates may not wear more than two cords and one stole at commencement.
SGA President Tyler Gibson said that he first became aware of the new rule at the fall 2015 commencement where he, as the president, resided as the university’s flag bearer and as leader of the administration and faculty procession.
“Before lining up I saw commencement Marshals, (those) in charge of escorting students and keeping them organized, asking students how many stoles and cords they had,” he said. “For students who had more than three, they were asked to take some off.”
Over winter break, he said, he looked into the policy further and spoke to administrators about it, and after meeting with the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Diane Allen in mid-February, he found that the decision was made in order for graduation to focus more on academics rather than extracurricular activities.
Likewise, he said that Allen hinted at “issues of equity” amongst graduates regarding some having several to a dozen, while others had only one or none.
The next step for Gibson was to bring up the issue during an SGA forum where he said students were very upset.
“Given the large amount of student concern and the time-sensitivity behind the situation and graduation being only a few months away, we created the petition,” he said. “The same day we created the petition, I reached out to Dr. Janet Dudley-Eshbach to have a meeting with her regarding the matter. This is when she overturned the policy.”
While this reversal can be seen as a success, the overturn is only effective for the next commencement in the spring. There will be more meetings to determine the status of the rule in the future.
Part of the reason Dudley-Eshbach overturned the policy, Gibson said, was because there was no student representation on the Commencement Committee when they decided the rule. Now, he says, he will be working with the committee to discuss proposals so they can reach a middle ground “between students’ desires and administration’s ideas.”
Gibson also said the SGA will work to have students on the Commencement Committee in the future.
Allen did not respond for comment after the decision was overturned.
The next large group of students this policy could affect if the committee decides to put the rule back in place are the fall 2016 graduates, followed by the spring 2017 graduates.
Several students in these groups are not happy with the possibility of their cords and stoles being limited.
“I disagree with the idea of limiting them,” junior Andres Roa said, who is planning on graduating in spring 2017. “The cords and stoles are not only signs of our successes, but to see all the different kinds shows how varied our experiences at SU can be.”
“Everyone works hard towards accomplishments other than academic,” junior Lindsay Meyers said, who is planning on graduating in the Spring of 2017. “College is about developing yourself as an individual, and people do that through areas other than academically. If they limit the cords allowed, I feel like it is almost a violation of freedom of speech.”
Others, though, are not as angry with the rule.
“I’m kind (of) bummed about having a limit, but it’s really not that big of a deal,” junior Taylor Still said, who is planning on graduating in the fall of 2016. “I see the cords/stoles like participation trophies, everyone gets them and they’re nice to hang up or hold on to after graduation. But really, it’s a rope that says you did a thing in college that millions of people have most likely done before. In the real world, unless you end up teaching at a college and wish to wear them to ceremonies, they’re not relevant beyond a keepsake. I wish there wasn’t a limit, but I understand why it makes sense logistically from the school’s point of view.”
Still, though, Gibson said he believes the student body in general wants the policy lifted for good.
“Students wanted this policy lifted because we have a large base of involved students on campus,” he said. “Our students dedicate time outside of the classroom to foster leadership skills and apply academic lessons to the real world. They believe that their time, effort and work for the university should be honored at graduation as students are ushered into the real world in front of friends, family and other campus community members.”
His perspective does not just come from what he has heard from students, however, but from his own views, as well.
“I personally wanted the policy lifted because I am the face of the student body when it comes to governance and policy, just as much as a student Director of Relay for Life is the face of the student body when it comes to our fantastic efforts to raise money for cancer research,” Gibson said. “Each of our involved students on campus are representing the university’s students in different capacities, and I feel the University owes it to the students to honor the value-added experiences, both for the students and the University, of our student leaders.”
The petition to overturn the restricted cords and stoles policy is still on SGA’s website at salisburysga.com for students to sign.
Most likely at the end of March, Gibson says he will still turn it in to the Provost and Commencement Committee to show the level of support students have for having stoles and cords at graduation.