On April 27, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) held its annual Recognition Ceremony and Lavender Graduation Ceremony, two events dedicated to recognizing students from marginalized, minority, or intersectional identities and the LGBTQ+ community. Although both ceremonies took place via Zoom for the last two years due to COVID-19, this year’s ceremonies took place in person in the Gund Gallery Foundation Theater.
The ODEI Recognition Ceremony was held on the morning of April 27. Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lynn Hampton and Vice President for Student Affairs Celestino Limas began the ceremony by speaking on the importance of fostering inclusivity and diversity on campus. “This is a tough time right now to be who you are and who we are. But it is worth the fight, and it is worth the struggle,” Limas said.
The ceremony recognized graduating seniors from 14 affinity groups on campus. Representatives from each organization announced the names of each graduating senior, with several representatives sharing personal anecdotes about their experiences with the organization and the benefits the affinity groups have provided them. In total, the ODEI Recognition Ceremony celebrated around 40 graduating seniors.
The ceremony closed with remarks from Dean of Students Brian Janssen, who spoke about the importance of student community and advocacy at Kenyon. “The Kenyon pathway is just one on your leadership journey,” he said. “As you traverse these pathways on your leadership journey, I encourage you to be compassionate and open-minded. Continue to be courageous and offer support to others, and be kind to yourself.”
The first Lavender Graduation Ceremony occurred at the University of Michigan in 1995 to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ students. Currently, over 280 colleges across the country hold a Lavender Graduation, and in 2017, Kenyon took part in the tradition for the first time. This year marks Kenyon’s sixth annual celebration of Lavender Graduation.
The Lavender Graduation Ceremony took place on April 27 in the afternoon, and highlighted graduating seniors from the LGBTQ+ community. The ceremony began with remarks from Acting President Jeff Bowman and Assistant Director of ODEI Sasha Fanny-Holston on the value of supporting and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community on Kenyon’s campus.
ODEI presented three student awards during the ceremony. The Rising Star Award, given to a first-year or sophomore, was awarded to Yufan Lu ’25, and the Outstanding Advocacy award, given to any student who has contributed immensely to LGBTQ+ advocacy and outreach, was awarded to Ocean Wei ’24.
The Kenyon PRIDE Senior Leader Award, which recognizes a LGBTQ+ senior who has demonstrated exceptional student leadership and community building, was awarded to Naseem Alavi ’23 for his contributions to campus, particularly for establishing a group independent study through the English Department, the Trans Media Cultural Studies class. “[I’m] honored to have been able to make a difference for the trans community at Kenyon,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian.
Two faculty/staff awards were awarded at the event. Assistant Professor of English Alex Brostoff received the Faculty/Staff Advocate Award, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Studio Art Charlotte Woolf received the Trailblazer Award. The event continued with a keynote address delivered by Professor Woolf. In her speech, she described the significance of the color lavender to the LGBTQ+ community, highlighting how it came to symbolize empowerment throughout the past century. She spoke on her experience of coming into her own identity throughout her time at Kenyon.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, graduating seniors were presented with cords and had their names read aloud. Around 30 seniors were recognized in the ceremony, although seniors who signed up but did not wish to be publicly recognized were provided with Lavender Graduation regalia as well.
Hampton highlighted the importance of these ceremonies to Kenyon’s campus, particularly in the current political climate, in creating a safe and inclusive community. “I applaud Kenyon for continuing to be brave and recognize the important contributions of our students, particularly ones who share these intersecting identities,” she said in an interview with the Collegian.
Audrey Gibson ’26 contributed to reporting.
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