Break out the bedazzler, decorate those caps

For the first time in Virginia Wesleyan history, graduating seniors will be allowed to decorate their graduation caps

Glitter, rhinestones and flowers oh my! Seniors can finally decorate their graduation caps.

A student council headed by Heidi Brinker, Wynter Bond and Brittany Hockey crafted a mortarboard decoration proposal for Provost Timothy O’Rourke. After receiving researched information on how cap decorations functioned in other universities, O’Rourke and the students came to an agreement that seniors will be allowed to express their achievements through decorations for the upcoming graduation ceremony in May.

Senior Carolina Jesse is excited for the change. “I think it’s a good idea. I would definitely do it. Students can be creative, we can express ourselves through our caps instead of them being boring,” Jesse said. “What better way to express yourself and the happiness of being able to say that you have made it? It’s a fun thing to do… There shouldn’t be limits to how one wants to celebrate their achievement unless the message is profane or vulgar.”

Jesse wants to represent her biology major with the decorations. “I would decorate mine with a biology or chemistry pun, or a quote by a famous female scientist,” Jesse said.

Fellow senior Ashantiana Jackson also welcomes the change. “Being able to decorate my graduation cap means the world to me. It means that I can express this overcoming joy of reigning victorious after nearly completing my undergraduate degree. Out of my six siblings, only three of us went to college,” Jackson said.

Jackson wants her cap to symbolically represent her journey to graduation. “It also represents my first step in my career and eventually going to medical school. I can’t wait to put my quote on my cap and just be able to keep it as a keepsake that will motivate me for future endeavors,” Jackson said.

A full list of the rules about cap decoration will be sent to all seniors in a letter. Profanity and crude political messages are prohibited, among other things. Decorations can only be two-dimensional and may not rise above the mortarboard more than a half-inch. No loose glitter is allowed, and the caps may not make noise. The letter will also provide suggestions on what messages would be tasteful and kind.
The Student Government Association (SGA) agreed to take responsibility and initiative on the issue. SGA members, including Hockey, will be responsible during the Commencement Ceremony to watch out for inappropriate caps. If such circumstances occur, two designated faculty members are to approach the student and replace the cap with a non-decorated one.

“I value when students take responsibility for ensuring that any activity on campus fits within the spirit and values of the campus” O’Rourke said.

While other campuses across the nation have been celebrating for years with bedazzling stations, students at VWU just beginning to enjoy this change. There have been petitions in the past for cap decorations, but not have been successful until now.

SGA Vice President Brittany Hockey said that the committee was originally formed after a group of students came to the SGA asking for help changing the rules. The SGA voted in favor of the change.

“We’ve been working on this since last fall and it came to its conclusion a week or two before spring break,” Hockey said. She emphasized the importance of the graduating class respecting the rules. “In doing this, the Class of 2018 will begin a tradition for all students at Virginia Wesleyan University.”

“Students came to me with a thoughtful proposal that showed a number of other institutions allowed it and that offered set rules we could apply,” O’Rourke said.

Despite the approved change, not all of the administration were pleased.

“There are faculty members that are against it,” Hockey said, but providing adequate research and creating a safety net for possible inappropriate messages helped faculty see how the change could be both positive and regulated. In part, the opposition seems to stem from the break in tradition.

Provost O’Rourke confirmed that some faculty would prefer a more traditional approach, but also said that they realize it is 2018 seniors who are graduating after all. “I ask the students to exercise good judgement,” O’Rourke said.
Hockey also explained that Virginia Wesleyan was the only co-ed university in Virginia that did not permit cap decorations, with the exception of Norfolk State University (NSU). Wesleyan was also the only local religiously-affiliated university that did not permit decorations.

Camille Benz