From Prohibition to Permission: Butte College Revises Celebration Attire Policy

New policy change reflects Butte College’s commitment to making sure students feel heard and supported.
Eston Conley

On May 14, 2024, a pivotal meeting reshaped Butte College’s stance on the attire allowed at graduation celebrations.

 President Virginia Guleff and VP for Student Services Brad Zuniga met with Trey Robinson, Malcolm McLemore, Shaun-Adrian Choflá, and Miya Clark to discuss the college’s existing college policy that prohibited the wearing of caps and gowns at graduation celebrations outside of the official commencement ceremony. 

These graduation ceremonies include program-specific events like pinning ceremonies and identity-based ceremonies such as lavender graduation. These events are meant to acknowledge diverse student experiences but not to replace the main graduation event, which is commencement. 

Over the last few years, Butte College has shown significant support for these identity-based celebrations, setting itself apart from many other institutions by not only facilitating but also funding certain elements like stoles, which are typically given to students during these celebrations with the intent to be used during commencement. 

Despite the college’s progressive stance and public support for these celebrations, the restriction on wearing traditional graduation attire at these ceremonies did not sit well with many students and faculty.

The reason this policy exists goes back to decisions made by President Guleff a year prior, decisions that were made aiming to better organize these celebrations and not cause confusion between the celebrations and the main commencement event. 

As explained by Brad Zuniga in a phone interview, the intent of the policy was never to diminish the importance of these celebrations. The college wanted to prevent potential interpretations of segregated events while also encouraging all students to attend the commencement. 

The rule regarding attire was created to avoid logistical conflicts and was not meant to be that big of a deal. According to Zuniga, the college simply wanted to maintain a clear distinction between the graduations and the main commencement.

Although the policy was well-intended, it clearly missed its mark.

Faced with heartfelt feedback from students and faculty, President Guleff showed remarkable openness to change, illustrating the kind of responsive leadership that truly considers student voices. 

The meeting held on the 14th led to the reversal of the cap and gown policy, now allowing students to wear their graduation regalia at all sanctioned celebrations. 

When reflecting on the situation during an over-the-phone interview, Brad Zuniga noted, “The administration listened to the feedback and the impact its decision had on students, reevaluated its original decision and adjusted accordingly.” 

This policy shift not only rectifies previous oversights but also reinforces Butte College’s dedication to making sure every student feels heard and supported.

As a result of the discussions held Tuesday and the subsequent policy adjustment, Butte College stands as a model of how institutions can evolve. 

By aligning its policies with its inclusive values, our college is setting a precedent for other institutions to follow, demonstrating that listening and adapting are as crucial to the administration as to those they serve.

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