The main campus of the University of The Bahamas (UB) was in an uproar Thursday as more than 60 students protested a university ban on student organization stoles being worn at its upcoming graduation ceremony.
President of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. Pedronique Saunders who spoke to Eyewitness News Online outside the University Drive campus said, the event was intended to be a silent protest.
Instead, members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) were called in to pacify some of the students just outside the school’s entrance.
“It ended up in an uproar outside the campus,” said Saunders.
“The silent protest was supposed to take place in the library but, when we lined up to go in the library, the security locked the door. So, we went outside the of the gate of the campus.”
According to Saunders, the protest was sparked after the UB Graduation Committee held a board meeting in the President’s boardroom and made a vote on the ban.
The committee came out with a vote of nine to two in favor of the ban of the decoration of mortarboard hats and graduation stoles.
But Saunders, who said she is confused by the decision, noted that UB has all sororities and fraternities participating in all university campus activities.
“It’s like we feel used,” she said.
“Why is it that you want us to perform and participate, but not wear our graduation stoles?
“What we plan to do is to stop being a part of school activities. The campus will be dead, and they will feel it.”
In an email sent to Student Council President Nelson Strachan, UB President Dr. Rodney Smith said, “Graduation Stoles” were intended to be used for marketing reasons and not for the actual use of graduation ceremonies.
He said, “There is no such thing as graduation soles. They have never been an official part of the graduation ceremony.”
“The manufacturers of the Greek Stoles created the name in order to increase sales.
“Some Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States allow their Greek Organizations to wear these stoles.
“The University of the Bahamas is not an HBCU.”
The University also sent out an official statement after the protest reaffirming its decision reading:
“Although a time of great celebration and excitement, Commencement is foremost a solemn academic occasion. Therefore, the standards of this distinguished ceremony must be maintained.
The 2018 Commencement Class was advised that the decoration of mortarboards worn at the ceremony is prohibited. The institution also advised that stoles are not approved graduation regalia and will also not be permitted.”
Three hundred of the 700 students in the Spring 2018 graduating class signed a petition asking for the decision to be reversed.
According to Saunders, a major protest is being planned on the matter and will be held soon.