On Friday, April 16, Pitt-Greensburg celebrated its first Lavender Graduation Ceremony, which is an event made to recognize LGBTQIA+ students and acknowledge the distinctive experiences many of these students have. This ceremony usually only occurs at Oakland, but the invite was extended to all the regional campuses this year, since it is virtual.
The Insider reached out to Shannon Dunn, a junior English literature major and current vice president of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), to learn more about the Lavender Graduation.
“Lavender Graduation is a traditional ceremony to recognize those students in the LGBTQIA+ community and the uniqueness of their journey through higher education,” Dunn said.
When asked what sets the graduation apart from others, Dunn said it is much more private.
“It’s generally a lot smaller than normal graduation ceremonies, which makes for it to be more intimate. It’s to let people in the LGBTQIA+ community know how proud we are that they got through this part of their journey in higher education,” Dunn said. “We recognize that they overcame any hurdles they might have had to face that come with their identity to get to this point, and how strong they are for that.”
Dunn explained that the ceremony has a lot of emotional history and cultural significance for LGBTQIA+ students.
“The Lavender Graduation stems from Dr. Ronni Sanlo, a Jewish lesbian, who was denied ability to attend her children’s graduation ceremony because of the fact that she’s a lesbian. That experience led her to start recognizing the pain felt by her students, and in 1995, the first Lavender Graduation ceremony happened at the University of Michigan with three graduates in attendance,” Dunn said.
Pitt-Greensburg has never been a part of the ceremony until this year. Dunn sat in on the planning committee with the other branch campuses to plan out the virtual event.
“Since this year’s ceremony is virtual and they have the budget, they thought it would be cool to do the ceremony across all of the campuses,” Dunn said. “The reception’s been phenomenal. I believe there are going to be attendees from Oakland, Greensburg, Johnstown, and Bradford campuses, with way more people in total signed up than we expected, which is so awesome!”
The Lavender graduation means a lot to students in the LGBTQIA+ community. It allows them to feel included, and most importantly, be seen and heard. Dunn said that being a part of something like this makes them proud and provides a sense of community.
“Lavender Graduation is something I’m so grateful to be a part of. It’s a way to celebrate those within our community and let them know how proud we are of them and their journey, because it’s not always easy,” Dunn said.