The cultural graduation still went on, but is no longer be organized by the group that initiated it.
The upcoming Latinx Graduation ceremony will be different for a couple of reasons from the ones in the past. For one, the Center for Latino Research (CLR) will not be the organizer for the event this year for a second time since 2021.
DePaul offers four cultural graduations for its students. They include the Graduation Celebration for Students of African Descent, the Graduation for DePaul APIDA Students, and the Lavender Graduation honoring LGBTQIA+ graduates. Those ceremonies are typically organized by their respective cultural organizations in the university.
This year’s organizer for the Latinx Graduation is DePaul’s Division of Marketing and Communications with funding from the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity (OIDE). According to a spokesperson of OIDE, the office found in April that the Center for Latino Research was no longer planning to host the ceremony.
That’s when DePaul Events took over the ceremony. Flyers and emails for the event gave students just about 12 days in advance to reserve an in-person ticket at the Student Center, with the last day to register being May 30th.
According to DePaul’s 2021 enrollment summary about 4,100 students identified as Hispanic or Latinx, an increase from years before. Prior to the pandemic, the Latinx Graduation was once held at McGrath Phillips Arena for the 2019 Latinx Graduation, where the building’s occupancy is for 3,000 people.
Post quarantine, the Latinx Graduation has been held across the street at the Student Center in both virtual and in-person options where occupancy for the room is for 550 people. The registration for in-person states that graduates are allowed two guests.
Director for the CLR Bill Johnson González said that the center could no longer host the event this year because the center did not have the capacity to do the event justice, citing a two-year backlog in the CLR’s journal Dialogo.
Johnson González said, “We would contribute to it [Latinx Graduation] but we just can’t be in charge of it.”
Initially, the CLR did have the intention to at least book a keynote speaker, with author Erika Sanchez being selected. However, Sanchez announced publicly that she will not speak at the Latinx Graduation or teach at DePaul after being told she was fired from the University because of budget cuts.
According to Johnson Gonzalez , there’s a lot of challenges when doing an in-person event, including logistics such as ordering food, ordering tables, reserving the space, and getting a band.
“It’s a huge operation, and we were stretched to the end of our abilities that year,” he said, referring to the ceremony in 2019, the largest ceremony hosted..”
The event, which was a grassroots effort by students, grew rapidly over the last few years, presenting a number of challenges to organize such a large event without enough support from the institution, he said.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think that the university has been prepared to match the needs of these events (as they) have grown; the resources administratively— like people, resources— as well as funding,” he said.
He suggested that the university creates a “comprehensive plan” to address the needs of the growing Latino population at the university.
“The faculty and staff should reflect the diversity of our student body,” he said. “(The university should have) the resources that we need, so that all of our students feel welcomed and supported during their time at DePaul— including the graduation.”
OIDE Vice President Elizabeth Ortiz told Pueblo at 14 East in an early May interview that the office is “willing to come and support and be there and print the certificates, but we need them [DePaul Events] to coordinate the [Latinx Graduation] and get students involved.”
“We’re really disconnected from students because we mainly work on faculty and staff DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] issues. So I’m hoping that we’ll be able to get that student involvement,” she said.
All the other cultural graduations are “up and running because they have faculty and staff from their communities running, running the events. So I’m hoping that we can get some Latino faculty involvement, some, you know, involvement from the college,” said Ortiz.
Header illustration by Bridget Killian