Tradition clashes with dignity

Katy Murray and Karon Parrish
Commentary Editor and Editor-in-chief

   The battle ended and dignity has been restored to graduates of the University of Arkansas–Monticello. Students once again will walk at their commencement wearing black gowns as opposed to the former kelly green robes.

New tradition dawns Former Chancellor Fred Taylor and graduate Gail Shelby pose at last year's graduation. UAM graduates will trade in the kelly green robes for black.

   The “green monster” of graduation will not be present at the spring 2005 event.  The news may be quite a relief to students as many of them expressed their negative opinions of the flashy green gowns throughout the current school year. Nancy Davis, former commentary editor of The Voice, declared her concern in the Oct. 1, 2004, issue of the “Ask Nancy” column.

   “It might be time for a change. Would a regal black gown give the event the true dignity that it deserves?” Davis said.

   The feedback from her column generated additional thoughts from other students and faculty members. The argument of green vs. black even reached as high as UAM’s Chancellor Jack Lassiter, who decided black gowns should be reinstated at graduation.  However, before the choice had been made, many students voiced their beliefs on the topic by replying to Davis’ column.

   UAM non-traditional student Lisa Burley agreed with Davis. Burley wrote a letter to the The Voice sharing her opinions and presenting a healthy argument opposing the green gowns. Burley said she sacrificed a great deal to return to college and complete her degree at UAM after being a stay-at-home mom for 14 years. When she discovered her vision of graduation skewed by bright green robes, she found herself in a state of shock.

   “Colored robes are for high school.  Black robes signify the maturity and dignity that a college graduation should have,” Burley said.

   She argued that the black color of graduation gowns represents the collegiate-level academic experience that students work hard to achieve. 

   Lassiter told Karon Parrish, editor-in-chief of The Voice, at the Board of Visitors meeting in January that a decision had to be made soon to order the gowns.

   I really believe we need to go ahead with the survey to find out what the students want, Lassiter said.

   The campus reinforced the idea that this year may be the time for a change by supporting black gowns in a poll taken by members of The Voice. In the poll, students voted through campus e-mail and were identified by classification and color choice.

   The poll results provided the following:

78 percent of seniors chose black

60 percent of juniors chose green

  60 percent of sophomores chose black

60 percent of first-year students chose green

   However, factors contributing to student’s lack of participation could be a product of poor survey advertising, misuse of student email, unconcern for the subject matter or inability to access the Internet.

0.08 percent of seniors participated

  0.03 percent of juniors participated

0.02 percent of sophomores participated

0.01 percent of first-year students participated

   Regardless of the results, administration still took notice of the argument and found the change to be a good idea. In the past, UAM graduates walked in pride wearing black robes and in the spring of 2005 students will once again have that pleasure.

   “Traditions are a wonderful thing to experience, but there comes a time when change is good and this is definitely the year for change at UAM,” Davis said.

   Graduation exists as one of the most memorable events in a student’s education. According to Lassiter, that memory will for the next ceremony, at least, be painted in the regal and collegiate color black.

   Robyn Howard, a first-year student from Warren, said, “I believe that the student body definitely has an opinion in the matter of their graduation and I think we have the type of administration that will work with us to make our graduation one to be remembered. I am proud that my voice has been heard.”  

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