Friday, June 14, 2024

SU adopts gender-inclusive academic regalia

By Genno Gabriel Rabaya | May 7, 2024

Silliman University (SU) redesigned the academic regalia for the upcoming graduation following a gender-inclusive initiative.

According to Alvyn Klein Mana-ay, Home Economics/Nutrition and Dietetics Department Chairperson and overseer of the university’s sewing projects, the change was implemented after evaluating last year’s commencement ceremony.

“It started [with] the consideration of gender equality,” he said.

The change was in response to the on-stage protest by Margaux Jakiran, a pharmacy graduate of 2023, who held a banner with the displayed message, “Gender-affirming togas for all.”

Jakiran said that her request for a female toga was denied during last year’s graduation, which prompted her to avail from a tailoring shop outside SU.

“I had to make a statement to raise awareness of how difficult it is for trans students to be deprived of expressing themselves, especially during such an important ceremony as graduation,” she said.

During the graduation ceremony, Jakiran said that she was hesitant to protest at first. However, her mind changed when a fellow transgender student asked to borrow her toga.

“Although I read a few comments online from the SU community where they preferred the old design, it’s essential to note that the trans community has been denied the toga that affirms their gender for so long,” Jakiran said.

She also noted that the updated regalia symbolizes the fight to make SU an inclusive institution.

Because of this, Mana-ay said the decision was made to consider making the academic regalia more inclusive. “We were really sad about the fact that there were some students who were dismayed [by the regalia worn],” he said.

The previous regalia worn by male graduates had a cord that was attached to the gown by a running stitch. Each year, the cords were unstitched from the gown and kept for a personal token.

Among other factors, the said office considered the practical sustainability of the graduation gowns in their evaluation.

“Every year, doing so [gown unstitching] damages the gown little by little. So it shortens the lifespan of the gown. So, we said there are many practical outcomes for doing these recommendations,” Mana-ay said.

The new togas will be used in the graduation ceremony on May 26.

Installation process of the new design

Mana-ay said that the new gender neutral academic regalia was designed in reference to the Intercollegiate Bureau for Academic Costume.

“According to the Intercollegiate Bureau, the regalia includes the gown, the cap, the mortarboard, [and] then the tassel,” he said, adding that a “Silliman red” academic stole bearing the university’s logo adds a design unique to SU.

Mana-ay further said the changes were deliberated on following the closing of the 2023 commencement exercises, with internal discussions and evaluations taking place then.

This decision was initiated by Mana-ay and approved by Dr. Earl Jude Cleope, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Jane Annette Belarmino, former Vice President for Development Enterprise and External Affairs.

In October 2023, the Deans Conference discussed the minor changes endorsed in the new academic regalia’s design. The academic council approved it in November 2023 and later by SU’s Board of Trustees.

“Now, I’m happy to report that… We’re [releasing the regalia] early compared to last year,” Mana-ay shared.

However, he clarified that the modification in the regalia only applies to undergraduate programs, excluding the School of Basic Education, Elementary School, Senior High School, and Graduate School.

Moreover, graduates of five-year programs in architecture and theology will retain their academic hoods for graduation ceremonies.

According to Mana-ay, the SU Student Government (SUSG) was also consulted in redesigning the regalia.

On Nov. 6, 2023, the SUSG Students’ Rights and Welfare Committee published their Silliman Stance 6, which included a survey on adopting “gender inclusive academic regalia.”

However, Mana-ay said this was a “happy coincidence” as the changes for the regalia had already been in progress.

He added that he acknowledged the SUSG for suggesting the design where the right side of the academic stole would showcase the university’s motto, “Via, Veritas, Vita,” while maintaining its logo on the other side.

Moreover, Mana-ay said he hoped the redesigned academic regalia would continue for at least five years. However, an evaluation process will commence should there be plans to change its design soon.

Graduates can purchase the new academic stole after their commencement exercises. According to Mana-ay, some students keep their academic stoles as a personal token.

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