Lavender Graduation celebrates LGBTQIA+ and ally students


courtesy of Grace Wojcik

2016 Lavender Graduates with guest speaker and Oakland University alum, Joshua Miller.

Amy Swanson, Staff Reporter

Come honor the achievements of graduating LGBTQIA+ and ally students at the fifth annual Lavender Graduation Celebration on April 2.

Held at 1 p.m. in 110 O’Dowd Hall, the event is meant to reward graduates for their academic accomplishments and will serve as a formal goodbye from the Gender and Sexuality Center.

It is open to all 2017 undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as any faculty, staff, alumni, and family and friends of graduates.

Following a light lunch, organizers will review this year’s work done on campus related to LGBT-inclusion. Attendees will also be treated to the words of guest speaker Charin Davenport, an OU special lecturer and transgender advocate for human rights.

Graduates will then be presented with their certificates and souvenir rainbow tassels.

Lavender Graduation is a national event that was created by Dr. Ronni Sanlo, who wasn’t allowed to attend her own children’s graduations because of her sexual orientation, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The original celebration was held at the University of Michigan in 1995.

“There were ceremonies for students of various ethnicities and for other nonacademic groups . . . but nothing for our students, those who tend to feel [the] most disenfranchised from their colleges and universities,” stated Sanlo on

There are now over 45 Lavender Graduation ceremonies at colleges and universities around the country.

GSC Coordinator Grace Wojcik mentioned there is a growing body of research indicating that a sense of belonging on campus is directly tied to a student’s success, especially for marginalized groups.

“Graduating college is a major accomplishment for any student, but often LGBTQIA students face additional challenges to their success such as a lack of familial support or the potential for harassment and discrimination, to name a few,” Wojcik said. “Hosting Lavender Graduation Celebration gives us the opportunity to celebrate the current graduates, but also gives other students another milestone to look forward to at Oakland University.”

The annual event takes place a week before OU’s commencements and allows LGBT students of all races and ethnicities to leave with a positive last experience.

“In her introduction for the University of Michigan’s ceremony, Spectrum Center Director Jackie Simpson sums it up best by saying the ceremony ‘is many things: a time for recognition and inspiration; of connection and accomplishment; and most of all of celebration,’” USA Today said.

Wojcik feels that celebrating these graduating students also reinforces Oakland’s mission of academic achievement.

“Lavender Graduation Celebration is a great opportunity for students to learn more about the accomplishments of LGBTQIA graduates, to become better acquainted with their fellow students, and to hear a great message from an impactful community advocate who happens to also be a faculty member of Oakland University,” Wojcik said.

Participants are encouraged to wear whatever is most comfortable, but are free to choose their caps and gowns, if desired.

Sign up at the GSC’s events page on Facebook.