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The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT announces it will no longer fund cultural graduation ceremonies

Breyonna Mitchell

 The University will no longer fund cultural graduation ceremonies, according to an email sent on Tuesday by Brandelyn Flunder, director of the Center for Leadership and Learning.

The Multicultural Engagement Center, which closed earlier this month to comply with Senate Bill 17, previously put on Black Graduation, Latinx Graduation and GraduAsian. The MEC’s closure will also impact welcome programs including the CultivAsian, Bloq Party, New Black Student Weekend, Adelante, Four Directions, and Leadership Institutes. Flunder said in a second email on Tuesday that the MEC is “working diligently to find an alternative home” for the graduations.

“Because you have been able to come into the space and see many of the staff, I understand that it likely feels that we are operating at status quo, but please make no mistake, while our doors remain open (for now, at least), our programs do not,” Flunder said in the first email.

The University did not provide additional comment by the time of publication. 

Government sophomore Erin McCormick said she’s always tried to connect with people who looked like her, being one of few Black people in her area. When she transferred to UT-Austin, McCormick said she looked forward to Black Graduation. 

“Of course, everyone would attend regular graduation, but Black Graduation elevates the accomplishment that much more, given the history of the University and Texas in general,” McCormick said.

Public relations sophomore Vashéd Thompson said Black Graduation was a reason she chose to attend the University. She said even if students decided to put on the graduations, the lack of University recognition would make the events seem less “official.”

“That’s already disheartening when you’re not feeling supported by the university that you go to, when you’re not feeling congratulated and like they’re proud of you, when you spend four years and thousands and thousands of dollars to attend the school,” Thompson said. “(It) feels like a stab in the back.”

Thompson said she met most of her current friends at New Black Student Weekend, another event that may not continue. She said the event helped her find community in what felt like a very large school.

“We really got to get close together and really see who was going to be in our class and make friends before stepping on campus,” Thompson said. “For programs like that to be up in the air and maybe not exist moving forward just makes me so sad for the new classes coming in.”

Recent UT alumnus Kai Bovik said they attended the GraduAsian ceremony and helped plan Lavender Graduation, previously put on by the Gender and Sexuality Center. It’s unclear how the closure of the GSC will impact Lavender Graduation.

“It was a lot better for me than the big graduations,” Bovik said. “Having those smaller spaces was important both because I got to go with my family and my friends and feel more celebrated myself, but also because it was (with) the communities I’d been building at UT my whole time there.”

Bovik said cultural graduations need a venue, food, stage and equipment, among other materials. They said the lack of University funding could make it difficult for the ceremonies to continue. 

“Our communities are going to find a way to put something on, and just organize and show up,” Bovik said. “(But) it’s harder to make it special and celebratory and successful in a lot of ways without having that funding in place.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article did not name every welcome event impacted by the closure. The full list of events has since been added. The Texan regrets this error.

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About the Contributor
Naina Srivastava, Senior News Reporter & Senior Photographer
Naina is a freshman journalism major from Mountain View, California. She is currently a senior news reporter and senior photographer at the Texan.