Kansas University is adding a graduation ceremony to its usual roundup of them this year — one that recognizes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students.
The Lavender Ceremony is part of a national trend, said John Younger, chairman of KU’s women, gender and sexuality studies program. He started a similar ceremony at Duke University.
He guessed that more than 100 universities have had ceremonies across the nation since the first one in 1995, at the University of Michigan.
KU’s ceremony, set for 6 p.m. Friday in the English Room at the Kansas Union, is a recognition of the unique issues faced on campus from a gay student’s perspective, Younger said.
“The importance is, in general, there are hardly any affirmations and celebrations of gay identity at any university,” Younger said.
It will probably always be a smaller event, he said — KU’s first group will probably consist of fewer than 10 graduates. When he did a similar event at Duke, the participants reached about 30.
Instead of the typical academic robes and gowns, participants are encouraged to wear whatever they’d like. Certificates of achievement will be handed out to all graduating students at the ceremony, who may come from any department or school on campus.
Sara Thompson, president of KU’s Queers and Allies, said that while KU has its Pride Week celebration, this event had a different sort of focus.
“I think it’s kind of neat because it recognizes the extra struggle for the LGBT population to get through the university,” Thompson said.
While this first event may start small, she said she hopes more people will be willing to participate in future years as people become more aware of the event.
“I would just hope that it gets bigger and better,” Thompson said.