Upperclassmen protest graduation plans over the seal, spark more conversations


Nina Martinez / Hilltop Views

Senior Bri Boughter leads a chant at the graduation protest, leading a chant about wanting a safe graduation. Boughter stood in the middle of the seal at the Ragsdale plaza, as she and other protesters chanted along.

A week ago, St. Edward’s University students protested this semester’s graduation ceremony by gathering at the university’s seal for approximately an hour. Discontent first spread among the senior class when university administration sent notice that their graduation commencement ceremony would be held on the soccer field.

“I was very frustrated because that is not what we were expecting,” graduating senior Maggie Van Dyne said.

Seniors, like Van Dyne, spearheaded this protest to bring awareness to the faults of having graduation on the soccer field. The demonstration was kickstarted by beating drums that echoed all across campus. Signs calling for accessibility and equity with phrases including “safety is key” and “we deserve a safe graduation” were held up by numerous students on and around the seal.

A tradition of the university is to avoid walking on the seal. According to superstitious students, stepping on the seal means not being able to graduate. One senior, Bri Boughter, danced to the beat of the drums on the seal to challenge the university’s tradition at the protest.

Using a megaphone, Van Dyne spoke about how sitting in the sun for approximately three hours would exacerbate her seizure disorder and put her health at risk, and that guests, like Van Dyne’s grandmother, would be unable to attend because of the lack of accessibility to the soccer field. A concern that many seniors are facing in regards to the newly located ceremony. Van Dyne’s roommate, Katy Van Zant, spoke too, promoting support and visibility as an able-bodied graduating senior.

“The student body cares about students who may be physically disabled or guests who may not be able to make it down (to the soccer field),” Van Dyne said.

Ethan Tobias, an SGA member and Big Event director, addresses the crowd, urging students to share their concerns with SGA representatives. (Nina Martinez / Hilltop Views)

Student Government Association representatives Ethan Tobias and Emma Viquez brought awareness to the university being open to a conversation with students about making graduation more accessible.

The wind and cold temperatures made it difficult for the demonstrators to keep standing and drumming at the seal, leading the protest to lose steam approximately an hour after its commencement. 

The day after the protest, university provost Marianne Ward-Peradoza sent an email to students providing more details about the Class of 2023 May Commencement, including how the event will be accessible. Over the weekend, the SGA Instagram posted information for an “open conversation” between students and administrators regarding the commencement.