A.S. allocates extra money for CSUN’s Black Graduation

Samantha Tata

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Black Graduation Committee co-chairs Eboni Blanchi, 22 Public Health Education, and Ryan Mason, 22 Psychology, outside the Grand Salon at the USU on Feb 8. A.S. approved $3,500 of unallocated funds for Black Graduation 2011. Photo Credit: Herber Lovato/Staff Photographer

A.S. passed a motion to exceed allocation limits and approved a $3,500 grant for the Black Graduation Committee by a vote of 14-1 Tuesday.

Black Graduation, a CSUN event established in 1972, is a commencement ceremony used to highlight and celebrate the achievement of minority students, particularly African Americans.

“This event caters to students and serves as inspiration,” said Ryan Mason, 22, Black Graduation Committee co-chair. “Most CSUN students are minorities, so this allows them to see students graduating who look like them.”

A.S. typically limits allocations to $3,000 per single event but this amount may be exceeded by a two-thirds vote, said A.S. Finance Director Vahan Khodanian.

“Standard funding for the commencement ceremony of a student group is $7.50 per graduate and $500 for a speaker,” Khodanian said.

He added that Black Graduation received the additional $500 because their estimated participant list of 400 graduates put their allocation immediately at $3,000.

Although they received more funding than average, the Black Graduation Committee still has the majority of their budget to fundraise.

“Our total budget is $18,000,” said Mason, a sociology major. “We are fundraising through events such as skate night, Panda Express coupons, bake sales and corporate sponsors.”

In addition to fund raising and A.S. allocations, Black Graduation is charging a $20 participation fee, said Eboni Blanche, 22, Black Graduation Committee co-chair.

The money raised will fund photography for the event, programs, venue, public safety, music and speakers, said Blanche, a public health education major.

Black Graduation incorporates culture into the traditional graduation ceremony, such as having African drummers play students down the aisle and on stage, Blanche said.

“This is a celebration for our community, since most of us are first generation college graduates,” Blanche said.  “We believe in the village. These students did not make it through alone.”

To enforce that sense of community, graduating students are allowed to write personal notes in the program thanking those who helped them achieve their degrees.

“Minority students don’t get to see many members of their community in regular commencement,” Blanche said.  “When minority students are all together, they don’t look like a minority and graduation looks achievable. We want students to be able to say, ‘I can be one of those 400.’’’

Blanche and Mason are graduating seniors and said  the committee has focused largely on recruiting undergraduate students to continue the tradition. They both said the intent of this year’s committee is to “leave a legacy.”

In a 2010 study that analyzed four-year universities nationwide, The Education Trust concluded that African American students earned bachelors’ degrees at a rate of 20 percent less than their white peers.

“Given retention rates, this gives students an opportunity to see graduates and aspire to strive for that excellence,” Mason said.

Blanche said the ceremony is “completely open” to all students who wish to participate or be in the audience.

Black Graduation will be held May 22 at Manzanita lawn.  For more information, contact csunblackgrad2011@gmail.com.