Graduation speaker and International Relations major Maria Jose Lozano stands for a portrait wearing a sash with Colombian flag on it at SF State on May 16, 2019. (JAMES CHAN/Golden Gate Xpress)
As students get ready to turn their tassels, students from the Latina/o Studies department work to make their own departmental graduation celebration possible.
While SF State’s University commencement budget allocates funds for the departmental graduations of departments like Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts(BECA) and Child and Adolescent Development(CAD), other departments, like all those in the College of Ethnic Studies, receive no such funds.
University spokesperson Mary Kenny said each college can opt for a specific amount of funding through the commencement budget to host a more intimate celebration.
“This funding is roughly proportionate to the number of students graduating each year from that college and may not cover the full costs of the celebration,” Kenny said in an email “The college can subsidize the cost through ticket sales or other
Latina/o Studies graduation faculty advisor Teresa Carrillo said this is not always true, and because of insufficient funding the department has been hosting student-run graduation ceremonies through fundraising.
When Arianna Vargas, student coordinator for the spring 2018 Latina/o Studies graduation noticed the graduating year before hers did not have a departmental graduation celebration, she decided to organize her own.
Vargas said she rallied students to form a committee to organize the graduation celebration.
The students’ duties included fundraising, coordinating with Veteran approaches graduation faculty and sometimes paying out-of-pocket money for supplies, according to Vargas.
Vargas said because of the lack of funds in the commencement budget, her and other students organized commit much time to organizing, which took a toll on their already busy lives full of work and school.
“It was a lot of pressure having to really organize, figure out funds […] none of us had ever done this before […] we put a lot into it and our grades started slipping,” Vargas said. “We are all trying to graduate, we have jobs, some of us have two or three jobs, so organizing this was rough but we made it happen.”
According to Vargas, despite obstacles, the Latina/o Studies student-run celebration was successful, with around 80 participating graduates.
Carrillo helped to organize both last years and this year’s Latina/o Studies celebration. She says her and the student committee she worked with gathered funds from ticket sales, a grant, and departmental money taken from other intended functions.
According to Carrillo, this year’s graduation celebration required around $3,500 in expenses.
“When our department puts in the money [for graduation], it literally has to come out of the copies or some other really central function. It’s not a great situation to be in but we did it anyway,” Carrillo said.
Carrillo feels that the lack of University funds to the College of Ethnic Studies is unfair but not surprising. “It’s part of the inequity of being in the College of Ethnic Studies, we never have funds for anything, and that’s the situation with graduations,” Carrillo said.
Latina/o Studies major and incoming graduate Guadalupe Jimenez sees the College of Ethnic Studies as undervalued because the University does not see the departments as equally career-oriented as other departments at SF State.
“They are only supporting the majors that they think will create some kind of income for the country,” Jimenez said. “Latina/o Studies is more about us and our personalities and our identities and they don’t value that.”
According to Carrillo, this year’s Latina/o Studies student committee is excited to indulge in the close-knit community that student-run Latina/o graduation provides.
Jimenez feels as though the Latina/o Studies celebration will be more intimate than the school-wide commencement ceremony.
“I’m excited for this graduation [celebration] the most because it feels more personal and more actually about the journey and what I’ve done,” she said.
Other departments in the College of Ethnic Studies such as Africana Studies and Asian American Studies also receive little funding from the University, and attend graduation ceremonies put on by student organizations instead.
According to Jabulani president Joseph Adams, the Africana Studies department, largely takes part in Jabulani’s end of the year graduation event formerly known as Black Grad.
Carrillo said regardless of what each department does to attend a community-oriented graduation, the College of Ethnic Studies must work extra hard to be able to do so.
She said the hard work students and faculty in Latina/o Studies students do to organize the celebration is parallel to hard work that Latina/o people do outside the University.
“We are always killing ourselves at work for our communities,” Carrillo said. “For our family to just advance ourselves, but how are we supposed to do that when they’re not allowing us to advance?”
Carrillo hopes that in the future, the administration takes responsibility for providing adequate funds for all departmental end of the year celebrations.
“We’re always supposed to fight for things that are automatically given to certain people, Carrillo said. “I think it’s the administrators responsibility to get this done.”