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BREAKING: Commencement attire revamped, to include approved dress

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UNK administration loosened a dress code restriction that limited graduation commencement attire to academic regalia on Tuesday. The change in policy follows a student government resolution calling for the change and a forum on inclusion and respect directed by senior vice chancellor for student and academic affairs Charles Bicak.

The policy change will allow students from diverse cultural backgrounds to celebrate their heritage at graduation, while also providing a path forward for student organizations whose students want to represent their involvement on commencement day.

“Graduating from university is one of the greatest achievements, somebody can attain, and we want everybody to feel included and be able to show that in their own way,” said Todd Gottula, senior director of communications. “Diversity and inclusion are central to everything we do. And this new policy is more inclusive in how achievements are shared and then celebrated.”

The new policy will allow students to submit stole and cord designs for approval by April 16 for the upcoming commencement this May in an expedited process for this year. Going forward, students will have to submit designs 90 days prior to commencement to receive full consideration. Students being honored for academic achievement through Latin awards and honor society awards will still be recognized at commencement for their achievement.

Earlier this month the student senate voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling for the former policy to change. Student advocates for the policy change Adrian Gomez Ramos and Adrian Almeida Hernandez organized a petition campaign that delivered nearly 250 signatures to the administration calling for them to revise the policy.

Gomez Ramos, a senior currently serving in the outgoing student government’s cabinet, spoke at the forum for respect and inclusion, pushing the envelope on the policy as the conversation was taking place.

“We have set out this Equity Access Diversity Committee, we released so many diversity and inclusion statements — but what has changed?” Gomez Ramos said. “Aside from a syllabus changing to include a little section, what has changed? This is a very low hanging fruit that the university administrators can grab as a step in the right direction, and [the change is] promoting that sort of diversity and inclusion that we want as students and what they say that they want by forming these sort of committees.”

The new policy follows up on a promise from Bicak in his concluding remarks at the forum for respect and inclusion that students would see change to make campus more inclusive within a month’s time.

“I think it’s time to reinvigorate those kinds of activities and conversations about the remarkable diversity in racial, ethnic, and gender identity across our campus,” Bicak said at the forum.”

Gomez Ramos said those conversations shouldn’t stop with the graduation dress policy.

“We don’t want just a black speaker coming for Black History Month, and then we’ll forget about it and the next month September we’ll do the same thing for Hispanic heritage,”

Gomez Ramos said. “It has to be more than just that. Our leadership needs to reflect the sorts of people that we want to see.”

Another forum for inclusion and respect is set to be held on Sunday April 11 at 4 p.m. to reflect on changes and continue the conversation.

Charles J Bicak, Senior Vice Chancellor of Academic & Student Affairs sent out an email addressing the recent changes to the commencement attire policy. Below was the email sent out on Tuesday:


Over recent weeks and months, students and others have observed that across the country, commencement — and specifically academic attire — has become more celebratory and a space for individual expression. Traditionally, UNK has held that the event is about academic achievement, and our standards for commencement attire limited medallions, stoles, and cords to academic organizations.  

Following a recent request from student government, the administrative team is expanding commencement ornamentation to include other academic honorary societies, learning communities, and officially recognized student organizations.  Effective at the upcoming spring commencement, students who are part of the Honors Program or graduate with Latin honors may wear approved medallions. Other student organizations may now wear approved cords or stoles granted to them by groups or departments, once approved by the Commencement Committee. 

The new commencement attire policy can be found here. For this semester only, faculty and staff advisors of UNK student organizations may apply for cord and stole approval for expedited review.  Requests received by April 16 will have full consideration.  In future semesters, applications must be received 90 days prior to commencement.

The dialogue surrounding the adoption of items of organizational and cultural significance that was prompted by our students has provided a tremendous opportunity to reflect on commencement as a time of celebration and to represent the array of experiences that brought students to UNK and supported them in their intellectual growth and development as individuals. 

As a follow-up to the first conversation on Campus Inclusion and Respect held March 11, please know that a second conversation will be held on April 11 where faculty, staff, and I look forward to continuing the dialogue on all matters related to inclusion. 

All in our community continue to be held in the highest regard and with respect for all you do to make this university so special.

Thank you,

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