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Agenda Item FA 20-04

Submitted by the Academic Standards Committee

Proposal for Inclusion of the On Campus Transition Program Completion Certificate Awardees in Graduation Ceremonies

02/06/20: Passed

02/06/20: Approved

Proposal for Inclusion of the On Campus Transition Program Completion Certificate Awardees in Graduation Ceremonies

Proposal rationale:

The On Campus Transition (OCT) program is a collaborative effort with The Arc Jacksonville housed on UNF campus. The program provides young adults with intellectual differences the unique opportunity of having a transformational college experience as an integral part of their transition to independence. Students may participate in all aspects of college life by auditing UNF courses, joining campus organizations and clubs, and participating in recreational/leisure activities that are enjoyed by all UNF students. Students are mentored in academic, social, and recreation activities through mentoring programs with UNF student peers.

 

The OCT program has provided many opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition to their participation in auditing classes of their choosing, OCT students learn how to be proactive members of our community, how to support their independent living, and financial management. Much like their neurotypical peers, our OCT students leave UNF with hundreds of memories, life lessons, and a valuable education. The OCT program is an example of how the UNF community cares about the members in our community with intellectual disabilities and how easy inclusion can be when dedicated community members advocate for each other.

 

Students, faculty, staff, and alumni embrace and accept diversity and inclusion as a core UNF institutional value. This is consistent with the mission and vision of UNF's Commission on Diversity and Inclusion (CODI). As stated on CODI's website "CODI also cultivates a shared commitment to diverse and inclusive perspectives and a culturally competent and inclusive university environment that values and respects the human differences, dignity and well-being of every community member.

 

Therefore, the UNF faculty propose that the On Campus Transition students who are receiving program completion certificates participate in the Graduation Ceremonies with the rest of their peers during the Spring Commencement ceremony. As such, we propose to amend the Academic Affairs Policy on Graduation Ceremony (2.0100P) with the language in Section III, "Only students who have applied and have been pre- certified as meeting degree requirements and students who have completed the On Campus Transition program may participate in the ceremony."

On Campus Transition Proposal

My name is Analysse Gammon and I am a senior studying Exceptional Student Education at UNF. I am reaching out because I would like to see an inclusion initiative on the University of North Florida's campus. I would like to see our On Campus Transition students graduate with the rest of their peers at the Spring Commencement ceremony.

 

Our On Campus Transition (OCT) program has provided many incredible opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Outside of their ability to audit classes of their choosing, they have learned how to be proactive members of our community among several other skills. Much like their neurotypical peers, our OCT students leave UNF with hundreds of memories, life lessons, a valuable education, and so much more. UNF's OCT program has paved the way for nearly all Florida transition programs, something we have always prided ourselves on. Our OCT program is an example of how we care about the members in our community with intellectual disabilities, and how easy inclusion can be when dedicated community members advocate for each other.

 

Every Spring, OCT has their own private graduation ceremony the Thursday before the university-wide commencement ceremony. At this graduation, the graduating students are presented with their certificate of completion and have kind words spoken about their character as they receive it. This ceremony is certainly special and allows for the students to be recognized as individuals. Though I understand the sentiment to this private ceremony, I still believe the OCT students should have the option to walk at commencement like the rest of their peers! The LGBTQ center hosts both their private graduation ceremony the day before commencement as well as their members having the choice to walk at commencement the next day. The private ceremony is for recognizing each student as an individual and is private for them and their family/ friends. The commencement is for tradition and recognizing the students and their graduating class. Neither ceremony takes away the value of the other.

 

OCT's second graduating class actually graduated in the spring commencement ceremony. Dr. Crystal Mackowski recalled that "(It) worked out wonderfully and we did not receive any complaints from any faculty". She said that OCT's participation ceased to exist once each college separated commencement, and OCT was not affiliated with any college at the time. She, too, would like to see OCT participate in the general commencement ceremony again. The benefits to the OCT students graduating with their neurotypical peers are endless. They get to be celebrated for all of their accomplishments in college, they graduate alongside their mentors and friends they made on campus; and the families of these students get to see them walk across stage and accept their diploma, something that they may have never envisioned for their child's future. For the faculty and graduating students, when they see the OCT students graduate alongside them, their eyes are opened to seeing what people with intellectual disabilities are capable of. They have the opportunity to learn from someone different than them, and it can change their perspective about people with disabilities.

 

UNF's On Campus Transition program has been a shining example for other Florida University transition programs. Imagine if all universities followed our example with including their transition students in their commencement ceremonies! It would be a huge accomplishment for the intellectual disability community as well the colleges. I believe that we can successfully include these students in Spring commencement starting Spring 2020 with all of the right people on board to make it happen. There are plenty of students, staff, and volunteers here at UNF who would put in the time, effort, and dedication to seeing this initiative go through. That's what makes our university stand out from the rest. No one like you, no place like this!

 

College of Education and Human Services

Department of Exceptional, Deaf, and Interpreter Education

1 UNF Drive, Bldg. 57, Room 3500, Jacksonville, FL 32224-2676

Office: (904) 620-2930, Fax: (904) 620-3895

Dr. Pamela Williamson, Ph.D. Department Chairperson


January 11, 2020

 

Dear Drs. Fenner and Richard,

 

I am writing this letter of support for the UNF student led initiative of including the On Campus Transition (OCT) graduating students in the university wide commencement ceremony starting Spring 2020 from the Department of Exceptional, Deaf, and Interpreter Education (EDIE) faculty as whole. The EDIE faculty unanimously support this request.

 

To summarize briefly, the OCT program is a collaborative effort with The Arc Jacksonville housed on UNF campus. The program provides young adults with intellectual differences the unique opportunity of having a transformational college experience as an integral part of their transition to independence. Students may participate in all aspects of college life by auditing UNF courses, joining campus organizations and clubs, and participating in recreational/leisure activities that are enjoyed by all UNF students. Students are mentored in academic, social, and recreation activities through mentoring programs with UNF student peers. If you would like more information about the program I suggest you visit their webpage - https://www.unf.edu/oncampustransition/

 

However, the students in the OCT program have been not allowed to participate in the UNF university wide ceremonies for the better part of a decade. As outlined by Analysse Gammon, the student leader of this request, the OCT program holds a program graduation ceremony, typically the day before the university-wide commencement ceremony. While this ceremony is a highlight for OCT students and their families, being excluded from the UNF university-wide ceremonies is not reflective of a university community committed to inclusion.

 

As one of Ms. Gammon's professors in the Special Education program this initiative is very important to not only our UNF students, who will be future teachers and school leaders, but also the faculty within the Department of Exceptional, Deaf, and Interpreter Education (EDIE) within the College of Education and Human Services (COEHS). The COEHS and EDIE students, faculty, staff, and alumni embrace and accept diversity and inclusion as a core UNF institutional value. This is consistent with the mission and vision of UNF's Commission on Diversity and Inclusion (CODI). As stated on CODI's website "CODI also cultivates a shared commitment to diverse and inclusive perspectives and a culturally competent and inclusive university environment that values and respects the human differences, dignity and well-being of every community member. " Therefore, the EDIE faculty ask the Academic Standards Committee of the Faculty Association to consider this request as well as the Faculty Association Executive Committee to support this initiative and ask that the OCT students be included in the university-wide commencement ceremony.

 

As you will see in the information included with this request, an online petition has been signed by over 640 students, alumni, faculty, and staff to include the OCT students in our university-wide commencement. Additional letters of support also have been gathered.

 

Further, faculty and students in the EDIE department are prepared and committed to work with the OCT program director, Crystal Mackowski and Chad Learch's team in the UNF Registrar's office to help facilitate any changes and supports needed to ensure a positive experience for OCT students participating.

 

Thank you for your consideration of this student led initiative. I look forward to your response and hopefully working collaboratively with FA and UNF administration to make this request a reality.

 

Sincerely,

 

David Hoppey, Ph. D

Associate Professor & Director of the Ed. D Program in Educational Leadership,

University of North Florida

College of Education and Human Services

Department of Exceptional, Deaf, and Interpreter Education

1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32224

(904) 620-5326 david.hoppey@unf.edu

 


THE ARC JACKSONVILLE

ON CAMPUS TRANSITION

 

UNIVERSITY Building 57, Room 2800

UNF Jacksonville, FL 32224-2676 The Arc.

NORTH FLORID A. 904.620.3890 / Fax 904,620.4806

coeoct@unf .edu Jacksonville

1/13/20

To Whom It May Concern:

It is with great excitement that I am writing this letter of support for the inclusion of The Arc Jacksonville On Campus Transition at the University of 01t h Florid a's (OCT) graduate s within F's Comm en cement Ceremony. As the original director of the program for the first 7 years , and the current interim director, I had the distinct pleasure of watching the university community increasingly embrace young adults with intellectual disabilities as Ospreys since 2006. As a U F alum , the petition init iat i ve swel ls me with great pride as matr icu lated student taff, and faculty recognize the diver ity and ertrichm ent OCT students bring to campus, and realize our tud ents, due to di abil ity affect , stereotypes, and prejudices, tend to work just as hard as matriculated studen ts to have a fulfilling and meaningful college experience that leads them to greater i ndependence and emp loyment oppo rtuniti es up on graduat i ng. In this letter, I wil l provide you , ith a brief history of how OCT students came to have separa te gradua tions and where the best practices among postseconda ry tran ition programs now lie.

  • In 2007 l inquired with the President' Office if OCT sn1de nts could participate in F's Commen cement upon graduating from the program to recei ve the ir Certificate of Completion. A l though the former President and Chief of Staff were supp ortive, the request was ultimately deni ed due to other U F faculty expressing that the in clusi on of our students at Commencement wo u ld ' deteriorate the esteem' of Commencement since they were not matriculating students.
  • In 2008 we had a private ceremony for our first graduating students at the Uni versity Center
  • In 2009, I was offered to have OCT students to be included in UNF's Conv ocation in order to ensure ou r students were receiving and integrated and inclusive experience, which was well received by our students, parents, and other UNF facul ty. Our students participated in UNF's Conv ocation ceremony as part of their graduation until general Convocation ceased and each college became responsible for their own Convocation ceremonies
  • Due to not bei ng attached to any college (in the past, we repo1t ed to the Pres ident's Office and the Stud ent Affair s), we created our own graduation ceremony. We tried to ensure that this pers onal ized ceremony celebrates and honors our students, parents, UNF faculty memb ers, and UNF Leadership.

However, throughout the years as being the origina l Director, I received numerous inquiries by both OCT and matriculated UNF stud ents, OCT parents, and by other postsecondary transition leaders as to why our students cannot be a part of UNF's commencement, especially since we pride ourselves in providing an inclusive an authentic college experience. There has been a consistent expressed sentiment of hopes UNF may change their policies. I am so proud that a current matriculated UNF student had advocated for UNF to revisit the inclusion of our students at Commencement.

 

ln addition, programs we have inspired and assisted in creating are now including their students in their university's commencement (i.e., UCF ). As the first postsecondary transition program at a Florida state university, it would be wonderful to see our program move towards this state and national trend of being a part of Commencement.

 

S i ce

<

Crystal Makowski, Ed.D., CRC

The Arc Jacksonville

Vice President, Special Projects Interim OCT Director

The Arc Jacksonville On Camp us Transition at UNF · I U F Drive, Building 57, Room 2800, Jack onvi lle, Florida 32224

904.620.3890 · Fax: 904.620.4806 · coeoct.unf.edu

1515


January 12, 2020

Drs. Fenner and Richard,

I am writing this letter to strongly urge the UNF Academic Standards Committee and the UNF Executive Committee to enact a policy regarding the inclusion of the On Campus Transition (OCT) students in the commencement ceremony in the coming semester for the College of Education and Human Services. The students in the OCT program engage in a groundbreaking program that does not exist anywhere else nor on any other campus in the United States. The program provides our students with real-life experience on a college campus that would otherwise not be accessible to them. They have the opportunity to interact with their peers who have intellectual differences and with those who are neurotypical on an even playing field and in a welcoming setting that is not always the norm. I have been lucky to see these students auditing classes where they are accepted as full participants with the same expectations, participating in student life activities and clubs, and are given the grace to make choices about their next steps into adulthood. Their presence on my campus makes me proud to be a faculty member of this university and even more proud to be an alumna of the University of North Florida.

 

In my capacity as a faculty member, I also serve as the Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the College of Education and Human Services. Our college values and embraces the worth of our students regardless of intellectual differences and we recognize the contribution that they are making to our understanding of inclusion. Inclusion matters. Including these students in our commencement ceremony will be what these students have earned and what our college represents. We are preparing teachers of the deaf, teachers of exceptional education, teachers in regular education, sports management professionals, school counselors, educational leaders, and ASL/English interpreters to enter their respective human service fields with innovative skills and the realization that all of our citizens are valued, have worth, and will contribute to society in meaningful ways for the betterment of all. I say again: Inclusion matters.

 

Thank you for your attention and consideration of this important action. I look forward to hearing the committee's decision in the hope that it brings pride to our university's commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Kindly,

 

Dawn M. Wessling, M. Ed., NIC Master

Associate Instructor/Staff Interpreter

 


RE: Letter of Support for including the OCT students in commencement

 

To Whom It May Concern:

 

I am writing this letter in support for the University of North Florida's On Campus Transition program completers to have the opportunity to participate in the UNF Spring Graduation.

 

First, I want to acknowledge the level of advocacy, persistence and leadership Analysse Gammon has demonstrated on behalf of the OCT students. Analysse Gammon is a UNF senior studying Exceptional Student Education. Advocacy is key to the work she will do across her professional career and her leadership demonstrates the type of graduate that we are committed to preparing at UNF. She is a change agent and a difference maker. Analysse possesses an inclusion and equity stance to the way she understands the world around her. This is clearly evidenced by her commitment to this initiative. I applaud her ability to stand up for what she believes.

 

In addition to acknowledging Analysse for her leadership, UNF has also demonstrated a long- term commitment to including individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The OCT students have long participated in activities across our campus and we are proud of the inclusive stance the UNF community provides. By allowing the OCT participation, we demonstrate our values as an inclusive university that celebrates diversity and inclusion. We also acknowledge the voices of the many students who are learning the skills of advocacy and the importance of their participation in making the world a better place.

 

I appreciate the opportunity to support this initiative. Respectfully,

 

Diane Yendol-Hoppey

Professor & Dean, College of Education and Human Services


January 10, 2020

University of North Florida

 

RE: Letter of Support for including the OCT students in commencement

 

Dear all:

I am very pleased to write this letter supporting the initiative to allow the On Campus Transition (OCT) students to participate in the university-wide commencement activities at the University of North Florida.

 

I am a professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of North Florida and I research the development of technology for children with disabilities. My research activities have given me an opportunity to observe the positive impact that inclusion has on the quality of life of individuals with disabilities, and it is based on these observations that I believe this initiative will have a positive impact not just on the individuals who are part of the OCT but on our University in general. I believe this aligns well with our principles of being and inclusive University and providing an innovative college experience for young adults with disabilities.

 

I thank you for the opportunity to recommend this initiative, and should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Juan Aceros, PhD.

Associate Professor

Electrical Engineering

University of North Florida

E-Mail: Juan.Aceros@unf.edu

 

Equal Opportunity / Equal Access / Affirmative Action Institution

 

PSYCHOLOGY


To Whom It May Concern:

 

RE: On-Campus Transition Students

 

A large part of my research has focused on inclusion of students in education. An early example of this was my interest in seeking out other cognitive skills that would offer a more "culture-fair" and equanimous measure of learning ability. To that end, I have published 13 books and over 100 scientific articles demonstrating how working memory, our ability to remember and process information, is a more robust and culture-fair predictor of learning than IQ. Working memory captures a student's potential to learn, rather than what they have already learned. This finding has been replicated many times in other research labs around the world, demonstrating that working memory, is not significantly linked to socio-economic indices, and thus, can level the playing field for many students.

 

My passion for the topic of inclusion does not end with my research. I have spent substantial time and energy delivering professional training days to educators around the world. More recently, I created a four-book series for children with learning disabilities, which focuses on their memory "superpowers." Too often, we focus on their daily struggles, but I wanted to shift the focus and celebrate their superpowers, based on my research with children with ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and anxiety.

 

When I was asked write this letter of support for the On Campus Transition (OCT) students to be allowed to participate in commencement, I was delighted! Not only does this initiate line up with my research passions, but it is also well aligned with UNF's excellent policy on equal opportunity and inclusion. I am looking forward to seeing the inclusion of OCT as a reality. UNF has already been rewarded as a Diversity Champion for four consecutive years, and this act will continue to demonstrate to the community of how UNF upholds the vision and values of inclusion and equality.

 

Sincerely,

 

Tracy Packiam Alloway, PhD

Associate Professor & Fellow, Florida Institute of Education

Associate Editor, Applied Cognitive Psychology

Associate Editor, Educational & Developmental Psychologist


1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville, Florida 32224-2648

Tel: (904) 620.2807 Fax: (904) 620.3814

 

DEPARTMENT OF EXCEPTIONAL, DEAF, AND INTERPRETER EDUCATION

January 14, 2020

Faculty Association

Academic Standards & Executive Committees University of North Florida (UNF)

 

Dear Colleagues,

Analysse Gammon, an undergraduate student from the Department of Exceptional, Deaf, and Interpreter Education, has requested that I write in support of including students from the On Campus Transition (OCT) program in UNF's graduation. I enthusiastically support her efforts.

 

I met Charlotte Temple, a Jacksonville mother of a daughter with intellectual disabilities (ID) and current principal of OCT during an inclusion conference in 1995. We began discussing the possibilities both available and attainable at college campuses for students with ID, and when I came to UNF in 1998, we resumed our discussion. Several other mothers and faculty members joined our initiative, and OCT was established in 2005. Although the program was enthusiastically supported by UNF administrators, our OCT team was unable to convince them that participating in graduation would further inclusion for the students. We reluctantly developed a separate ceremony for students, and this tradition has continued.

 

Although UNF distinguished itself by serving as the first program for students with ID at a public university in Florida, I believe this distinction has diminished as more forward-thinking programs emerged throughout the nation and in Florida. Among the characteristics of these newly developed programs is participation in graduation by the students who complete their programs. Nationwide, students with ID enrolled in college experience programs typically do not earn a degree, although some have been successful in this endeavor. Most students complete a program that prepares them to be productive citizens who work and enjoy life in their selected communities. Universities who have programs that offer credentials in employment are considered state of the art programs; UNF is working to establish these credentials in order to be certified by the state and national bodies. Graduating with their peers would strengthen the UNF program and propel students to seek satisfying employment. I watched a wonderful video of the students from the University of Central Florida program as they graduated, and it was a widely featured new story in my current Orlando community. During the graduation, they were announced as program completers rather than degree completers.

 

As a long-time advocate for community inclusion, I urge you to continue the progress we began on the UNF campus for students who have ID. I stand ready to answer further question or provide historical information about this topic. Have a productive Spring Semester! Respectfully submitted,

 

Kristine Wiest Webb, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor Emerita -Department of Exceptional, Deaf, and Interpreter Education

University of North Florida 904-631-4113-cell; kwebb@unf.edu


January 14, 2020

 

To Whom It May Concern:

 

I am writing concerning an inclusion initiative for the University of North Florida's campus advocating for the students in the On Campus Transition program (OCT) at UNF to graduate with the rest of their peers at the spring commencement ceremonies. Currently, the OCT students enrolled here at UNF are not allowed to walk at the regular graduation ceremonies to receive their certificates of completion in their respected program. We have allowed OCT to hold their own private ceremony, but have excluded them from the UNF campus-wide ceremony. I believe we should allow the OCT students to walk during the ceremony for several reasons.

 

The first reason is simply because it is the right thing to do to be in alignment with our stance as a university considering inclusion and diversity. UNF prides itself on being a diverse and inclusive campus. We even have a commission on diversity and inclusion (CODI). Our President stated this year in one of the campus updates, "UNF is committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all who interact in our community." In fact, this week in my inbox there is an email asking for nominations for an award/scholarship for exemplary work of those who help promote the understanding and appreciation for diversity and inclusion at UNF. We say we care about diversity and inclusion but when it comes to allowing student in OCT to walk during graduation, we are not in alignment with what we say is a priority in our campus community. I understand that these students will not hold the same degree as those who walk for their tradition diploma but these students have achieved, to the best of their cognitive ability, graduation from their program here at UNF. Our campus-wide community should recognize the achievement of the students in the OCT program just was we do other students in different programs of study.

 

A second reason is it would improve our ceremonies at UNF. The students in the OCT have impacted and been a catalyst for change for many traditional UNF students on campus. Students like to have faculty and staff in the graduation ceremony because they played a part in helping them grow and achieve their goals. In a unique way, the students from OCT have also played a part in their transformation and should be allowed to participate in the campus-wide ceremonies. As you know, UNF is proud of its distinction as a Carnegie Community Engaged Institution (2010). We believe in the power of transformation that occurs when we serve others in our community through a partnership of reciprocity. One of the community partnerships we have on campus is with the ARC of Jacksonville's On Campus Transition Program on campus. Many of the traditional students here on campus have become social mentors for OCT students during their years at UNF. Just last semester I had 1/2 of my upper division communication class mentoring and 1/5 of all my students in my lower division communication classes mentoring students from the On Campus Transition program. Community-based instruction like this has benefitted those in the OCT program and it also transforms the traditional UNF students. Here are a few excerpts from the many papers written by traditional students about their social mentoring with OCT.

 

"When I was introduced to the idea of volunteering with On-Campus Transition, I was honestly shocked and kind of scared ..... However, being given the opportunity to be a social mentor for my first semester at UNF has taught me far more than theories in a class… my experience as a social mentor was life-changing…The most important lesson I learned was that everyone deserves respect and fair treatment, no matter what predetermined notions we have about them. You never know what kind of connection you can gain unless you keep an open mind."

 

"I want to continue to engage with this community in more diverse ways. This experience has shown that my communication skills still need work. Some of these students are far more perceptive than "normal" students, and pick up on way more verbal and nonverbal cues than others would… My experiences with OCT have definitely taught me to be more careful with word choice, tone, or body language… I am so thankful that programs and institutions like this exist. Some people need a little more help than others to reach their goals, but by having programs like this, every person is given another opportunity to learn, and more fair chance at success."

 

I have papers full of comments similar to these. These types of transformations could not have happened without our inclusive and diverse community environment here at UNF with the OCT students. We simply are better together. Isn't that what diversity and inclusion is all about? If we believe this then we should include the students in the OCT program in the graduation ceremonies. Traditional students would feel honored to have their peers from OCT in the graduation ceremony.

 

Another reason for inclusion into the ceremony is that it would truly inspirational for all in the audience. We would be all be inspired by what one can achieve with or without disabilities. We would be inspired to overcome with the hardships in our lives. We would inspire and honor family members of those with students in the OCT program. It would inspire our traditional graduates that did not engage with OCT students during their years at UNF. They would watch at their last day at UNF, the community model respect and inclusion.

 

I would like to also address a few concerns some may have about including the students in the OCT program in the graduation ceremonies. First, it will take more time and we can't extend the ceremony. I agree it may take 5 more minutes. But adding 5 extra minutes seems a small price to pay to allow a small group of students to walk to be honored for completing their 4-year program and to be celebrated by their traditional UNF peer. Another argument may be that it may not work because of logistics and/or behaviors of students. First, it has worked in the past. Second, the students graduating from the OCT program have learned social behaviors and character and that is one of the reasons they are graduating.

 

As a faculty member in the School of Communication, I have had students from OCT audit my classes. I have watched them interact with and teach our traditional students many life lessons that would be hard to learn simply sitting in the classroom. I have been proud to be part of a campus that advocates for diversity and inclusion. I plead with you to allow the students in the On Campus Transition program to walk during the regular commencement ceremony for the sake of inclusion. Just as the School of Communication has a separate private gathering/award ceremony each year prior to students walking in the campus-wide graduation ceremony, the OCT program should be allowed to do the same.

 

They should be allowed to honor their students privately and also walk during the campus-wide graduation ceremony. Let's be a university that models inclusion and diversity in all aspects of what we do, including the commencement. We are better together.

 

Sincerely,

Traci Mathies

School of Communication Faculty Member

503-317-7184 (Cell), traci.mathies@unf.edu


January 15, 2020

 

I write to offer my vigorous support of a former student, Analysse Gammon, in her inclusion initiative for On Campus Transition (OCT) students to attend the Spring Commencement ceremony. I have had the privilege of working with many OCT students in the classroom. I teach a variety of music history and musicology courses here at the University of North Florida (UNF), and I have witnessed firsthand the benefits of their inclusion in classroom activities and discussions.

 

More significantly, I have seen the intensity of the emotional attachment of OCT students to the UNF community. Currently, the OCT students have their own commencement ceremony, and their palpable sense of being a part of the UNF community is apparent in the level of enthusiasm and engagement equal to that of the larger Spring Commencement gathering. For me, the OCT program separates UNF from the other colleges and universities where I have taught. As Analysse points out in her inclusion initiative, other groups conduct separate ceremonies, which helps to foster a sense of in-group feeling, and they then participate in the larger commencement ceremony to further reinforce their sense of belonging to the UNF community. I agree with the Analysse that allowing the OCT students the same opportunity would have the same effect, not only for the students but for the OCT staff, friends and family who have guided and mentored these students through their years at UNF. In addition, allowing OCT students to participate in the Spring Commencement would increase awareness of these valuable members of the UNF community among other faculty and staff. Many faculty remain unaware of the positive effect that OCT students have in the classroom, especially among their more mainstream student peers, who often mention to me that they are quite proud of the fact that UNF provides this inclusive opportunity. The OCT program sets UNF apart from other colleges and universities, and I believe allowing the OCT students would further generate a sense of pride for UNF, not only with in the OCT community of students and staff but also among those other UNF community members who are proud of the classroom inclusion opportunity provided by UNF.

 

I close with a restatement of my vigorous support of Analysse Gammons inclusion initiative. UNF Faculty and staff are necessarily focused on the day-to-day activities and obligations, and I think recognizing this initiative from the mainstream student community provides a necessary view from the folks we work so hard to serve. I would look forward to being a part of the Spring Commencement with the OCT students I have collaborated with in the classroom.

 

Sincerely,

Scott Swan

Adjunct Lecturer in Music History & World Musics

School of MusicUniversity of North Florida

Adjunct Lecturer in Anthropology

Flagler College

Ph.D. Candidate in Ethnomusicology

College of Music

Florida State University