As May comes around, students are preparing for the summer and graduation. Various accomplishments are recognized, and IUP groups make sure all students feel included.

The university held its ninth annual Lavender Graduation Ceremony Friday in Elkin Hall to celebrate graduating students of the LGBTQIA community. 

The walls of the room were covered with LGBT flags, and the graduates’ loved ones filled the room. More than a dozen students took part in this year’s celebration. 

Students received certificates and lavender-colored cords that they can wear at their other graduation ceremonies.

“Violet and lavender have long been symbols of the LGBTQIA community,” said Tedd Cogar, the associate director of student conduct and LGBTQIA support. “Lavender, as a color, celebrates survival, strength and hope.”

Starting in 2011, the Lavender Graduation has been one of the ways IUP has been active in showing support of its LGBTQIA students. 

Though this is the school’s ninth celebration, the event originated in 1995 by Ronnie Sanlo, a professor at the University of Michigan who identifies as a lesbian.

“Dr. Sanlo was denied the opportunity to attend the graduations of her biological children because of her sexual orientation,” Cogar said via email.

Because of this, Sanlo realized her students may have faced similar problems and created the Lavender Graduation in answer to it. 

Sanlo is also Jewish, and the cords represent that as well.

“The lavender cords, which we present to each graduate, represent the combined colors of the black triangle that lesbians and political prisoners wore and the pink triangle which gay men wore in Nazi concentration camps,” Cogar said.

Since its inception, the event has spread throughout the country. Cogar said the graduation will take place at more than 93 college campuses this year and celebrate hundreds of students.

Caps and gowns were not necessary for the event. Instead, students dressed in business casual attire. To be a part of the event, students were asked to fill out an online form that would reserve their spots in the ceremony.

Cogar said that IUP has more plans in the future of its LGBT inclusion, with the Lavender Graduation helping it grow throughout the school.

“These first nine years are only the beginning of a tradition that IUP is proud to offer and which has continued to grow on this campus,” he said.

The Lavender Graduation is a part of the Safe Zone program at IUP. Safe Zone’s goal is to bring visibility to the LGBT community. For any questions regarding LGBTQIA life on campus, email lgbtqia-support@iup.edu.

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