Faculty Senate denies classified staff the cap-and-gown at graduation

The Faculty and Classified senates are at odds over who should be allowed to don caps and gowns and participate in an 800-year-old college tradition.

Jocelyn Iannucci, president of the Classified Senate, said her organization wants non-teaching employees with college degrees to be allowed to walk in the procession with DVC’s full-time faculty. Not allowing them to is discriminatory, she said.

But earlier this month, the Faculty Senate voted unanimously not to support such a change.

Since faculty teach classes and determine degree requirements, “[the council] believes it is appropriate for faculty to walk in cap and gown in graduation ceremonies,” said Faculty Senate President Laurie Lema following the March 9 vote.

Iannucci, who was present at the meeting, said later of the vote, “I was just trembling.”

Lema questioned whether the request was “the will of classified at large.

The Classified Senate was not polled, Ianucci said, although 13 members present at a March 10 Senate meeting agreed “by consensus” to seek a policy change.

Iannucci said she brought the issue last year to DVC President Judy Walters, who directed John Baker, then interim vice president of student services, to conduct a study of the policies of surrounding community colleges. Walters then gave the reins to his successor, Donna Floyd. Iannucci said she was told by Chancellor Helen Benjamin the decision rests with Walters.

At Los Medanos Community College, classified staff holding associate degrees or higher can walk in the graduation procession. At Contra Costa College, classified staff who also teach classes part time can participate but not walk.

Classified employees at DVC can participate only as volunteers: arranging chairs, ushering, and providing technical support. Some have even sold flowers.

Many Faculty Senate members expressed support for the current policy.

Oceanography instructor John Freytag said it was a matter of “tradition”, as well as faculty “verifying that all these students have done all they need … to have earned that degree.”

Keith Mikolavich, Faculty Senate vice president and English instructor, believes classified staff should be able to participate in commencement ceremonies, but not in the same way as faculty.

“I don’t think it’s elitist to say that we have different but complimentary roles,” he said. “They do all the hard work, often behind the scenes. I understand their need for greater recognition.”

According to Floyd, Walters will not review the issue this semester. Iannucci said she considers the president’s decision “a matter of what type of culture she wants to create on campus.”

Iannucci said she welcomes discussing alternatives to walking in the procession.


Contact Oksana Yurovsky at [email protected]