At the end of March, the Classes of 2018 voted to decide between joint seating and processions for commencement or separate seating and processions by college. The debate prompted discussion about gender differences and inclusivity within the coordinate system. To shed greater light on the discussion the Herald asked three campus leaders and active participants in the conversation to express their views in print.
Big picture, HWS and its coordinate system reinforces a gender binary that not enough students entering completely understand or realize. As an incoming first year, I was unaware of what being a student within a coordinate system meant and how it would come to impact the next four years of my life. My complete opinion on graduation seating would include the dismantling of the coordinate system resulting in either a singular college, Hobart and William Smith College, or two completely separate single-sex colleges, Hobart College and William Smith College. That being said, I understand the institution would likely financially collapse if either move happened- which is why we’re being made to think that voting on graduation seating actually makes a difference to the gender boxes our school shoves students into on move in day.
I voted for integrated seating on graduation day because multiple students over the last four years have stood up and said that the “traditional” separate seating forces them into gender distinctions they are uncomfortable with, especially in such a public manner. I, as a cisgender-identifying person, am not in the same position as these students, but I realize that I would be making minimal sacrifices with integrated seating while making it so my genderfluid/non conforming classmates are in a less compromising position on an important day. I understand there are arguments to be made for tradition and aesthetics, but our graduation serves even more as a societal than institutional tradition in that is common practice in higher education. What I believe is most important to examine in this conversation is why as an institution we would likely financially fail if we dissolved the coordinate binary as other great schools have done.