CDI and students secure affinity stoles for virtual graduation in December

CDI announces pick up and delivery logistics for December graduation affinity stoles after being unable to provide stoles for May 2020 graduates

CDI and students secure affinity stoles for virtual graduation in December

Guadalupe Mabry, former president of AU LULAC, graduated in Spring 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. She was only able to get affinity stoles through a friend.

For nearly 600 students in affinity groups at American University, celebrating graduation while donning an affinity stole is a long-awaited achievement. 

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion announced Monday that affinity stoles are available for pickup on a first-come, first-served basis between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. from Monday, Nov. 30 until Thursday, Dec. 3. Calvin Haney, associate director for the Center for Student Involvement, sent an email Monday to graduating seniors with a registration link.

Virtual commencement has complicated traditional graduation practices, so finding a way for students to get their affinity stoles was complicated, said Consuelo Grier, the director of multicultural student support and co-director for CDI. Grier said that, despite the circumstances, her office believes securing the stoles for students is essential. 

“Dr. Aw has made a commitment to be able to support this process, it’s a matter of working through the logistics,” Grier said. 

Seniors who graduated in the spring were unable to receive their stoles due to the unanticipated coronavirus pandemic. When the University announced that December commencement would be held online, the availability of affinity stoles was once again in question.

Mercedes Subhani, a senior who is graduating in December, has already ordered her cap and gown; all that’s left is her Latinx stole. Subhani reached out to CDI when she didn’t receive any communication from the University about getting her affinity stole.

The email from CDI to Subhani said: “Thank you for reaching out! Unfortunately since CDI is remote this semester and we do not have the budget to ship stoles, we are unable to provide those for graduates this semester. Our apologies, and congratulations on your graduation.”

“My heart dropped,” Subhani said. “These three-and-a-half years working and I’m not going to get that.” Subhani posted the response from CDI on her Instagram story and said that she received direct messages from friends who also wondered about receiving affinity stoles. 

Unsatisfied with the response, Subhani reached out to Grier, who thanked Subhani for being an advocate and assured her that CDI was working to get students their stoles. 

“The initial email from my office didn’t fully represent the challenge with getting stoles out to graduates, it’s not just a budgetary issue — but it is an issue we are committed to working with Dr. Aw and others to try and find a solution to,” Grier said in an email to Subhani.

Though affinity graduation celebrations are typically only held in the spring, stoles for CDI’s four affinity groups, Black, Asian Pacific Islander, Latinx and LGBTQ+, are available year-round. The celebrations are “student-led and staff-supported,” as a collaboration between the Office of Campus Life, CDI, the Center for Student Involvement and Alumni Relations, Grier said. CDI ran a social media campaign in lieu of traditional affinity celebrations for May 2020 graduates. 

Recent alum Guadalupe Mabry, former president of the American University League of United Latin American Citizens, was frustrated when the pandemic disrupted normal affinity celebrations in the spring. Mabry was even more disappointed when she and her peers didn’t receive stoles from the University. Luckily, Mabry was able to get Black and Latinx stoles from an AU peer to take pictures in. 

“All my three years at AU I was really involved in the Latinx community,” Mabry said. “I always looked forward to that time at graduation where we would all come together and celebrate each other.”

“There are multiple communities that we serve through the affinity celebrations, and when we make the stoles available it has to be for all of them,” Grier said, referencing the four affinity groups. “We’re not talking about a small handful of students, we are talking about potentially upwards of 600 students.”

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