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Davis, California

Friday, April 12, 2024

Editorial: Graduation gown change – Now we’re feeling blue

Starting Spring Quarter 2014, graduating students of UC Davis will no longer wear the traditional black cap and gown for commencement. Students will have to rent a blue gown with gold piping with the addition of the UC Davis emblem on it.

The new gowns are made out of 100 percent recycled fabric, and this is the first time Herff Jones, the company that sells graduation materials, will offer sustainable graduation materials — meaning the way they’re laundered and what they are made of are better for the environment.

Last year, the rental price was $42. This year the price is $52. This price is still among the higher graduation costs of the UCs, and Davis students don’t get to keep their gowns. For example, UCLA’s price for a black cap, gown and tassel is $37. UC Irvine’s is $58 for the same items — except their students don’t have to return their purchase.

According to UC Davis Stores Director Jason Lorgan, the reason the price has increased is due to the higher quality of the material. When the gowns were plain and black, we were renting from a pool of graduation gowns open to the rest of the nation. With the new sustainable gowns, UC Davis selected its colors and added the emblem, ensuring that only UC Davis students will wear them.

Even though no other school in the nation will wear these gowns, UC Davis isn’t even purchasing them — they’re renting from Herff Jones themselves. Lorgan said that the gowns cost approximately $40 for the school, leaving a 23 percent profit that will allegedly go toward operating costs of the Memorial Union (MU). So will prices go up in future years due to the planned MU renovations?

Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi requested that the emblem be included on the new gowns. Why? To differentiate ourselves in pictures. To show that we are from the “prestigious UC Davis.” But let’s be realistic: the emblem will probably end up being covered by any stoles or graduation flowers students choose to wear.

Apparently it didn’t make sense to continue with all-black gowns, due to reasons such as Aggie Pride (!!!). Here are some facts: blue and gold are the colors of every single UC school. No other UC campus has changed their gowns except for UC Merced, who changed to a solid blue this year. No other UC has its name on its gowns. Did anyone consider the fact that specialty groups and organizations on campus purchase colored, embroidered stoles to wear against the traditional black gowns? If the school is so concerned with image, are they okay with the clashing colors of established groups’ graduation accessories?

Why does it matter that some students would want to keep their gown? Besides sentimental reasons, many would want to resell their gowns to save money. Black gowns signify a collegiate graduation. Now what happens to the students who were planning or have already purchased an all-black gown from a third party in order to save money? Will they be able to walk at graduation? What happens if a student can’t afford the increased price?

Sure, the rental gown is apparently a better-looking garment. But let’s be real. Graduating students could care less about the quality of a gown that they don’t even get to keep; they are broke from textbook prices and tuition.

Becoming more sustainable is the reason UC Davis decides to pursue certain projects such as this. But when it’s costing the students more and keeping its decisions in the dark, this only seems like yet another occasion in which the University is squeezing one last dollar out of its students.



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