In this day and age, there is not much a person can do without a Bachelor’s degree. It’s the key to the first door that will lead to a career, financial stability, and the opportunity to make a change in the world. A college degree is so highly valued in this country that it is possible for a student, documented or not, to pursue, attend, and receive a higher education. Here at UC Merced, we pride ourselves on being one of the most diverse UC campus. Students of all ethnicities are encouraged to come here because of the diversity and the inclusive hearts of the student body and faculty. When those students get here however, they are not necessarily being provided with the proper resources to thrive based on their race/ethnicity.
About 50% of the students attending the school identify themselves as Hispanic. A majority of those students are also first generation college students. Because of this, it isn’t too far fetched to assume that the first language of these students and especially their families is not English. Therefore, shouldn’t the school be taking measures to accommodate such a large population of friends and family that will travel all the way to Merced to watch their loved one graduate?
There are students that have decided not to attend commencement because of this lack of appropriate accommodations. “UC Merced is a minority serving institution and I feel that as such it needs to be conscious about the students it serves which are majorly first generation latinxs students with non-English speaking parents. Higher education still means a great deal to those students and their family members,” says Raquel Pérez Zúñiga when asked about commencement. Even though a Latinx commencement ceremony is still offered at the Merced Theatre the day of commencement, it’s still not the same as the traditional ceremony. These students pay thousands of dollars in tuition and other fees every year to attend UCM only to be offered a ceremony that their family will not only be unable to understand, but also not be made comfortable attending either.
Steps to fix this problem are simple. Invite a translator to translate the large parts of the ceremony. Create an area for Spanish-speaking family members to check in to and be escorted to their seats by someone who understands. It is understandable that the ceremony cannot be over personalized for those students that would require this accommodation, but the school should can at least take the necessary baby steps in this direction to will accommodate around 50% of its student body. The institution can not keep priding itself on its diversity without taking measures to properly aid the community it serves.
Picture Credit: Sam Ginete