Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923
by Jennifer Glose, Business Manager
Her voice elevated with joy, and her cheeks blushed with a rose glimmer, as Kaitlin Oswald spoke of her deep connection and apathy for Alpha Phi Omega (APO), a national community service organization at Cedar Crest College, one in which she serves as the proud president of.
“APO has exposed me to the ways that I can impact the world besides being suc- cessful in my career,” said Oswald, a senior who is double majoring in neuroscience and psychology.
Emotions are at a high for the seniors of APO. Due to policy changes in the last eight years, these students are not permitted to wear their honor cords at graduation. In the past, according to the administration at the college, students who participated in various on-campus clubs and organizations were permitted to wear their cords at the gradua- tion ceremony, including athletic teams and resident advisors.
With the policy change, only those clubs and organizations which require a minimum grade point average are permitted to wear their honor cords at graduation.
The APO members at Cedar Crest have been reaching out to the administration every year since the policy change, pleading to wear their cords at graduation, but every year the members have been turned down. And once again, this year they were turned down by Elizabeth Meade, current provost at Cedar Crest.
“Commencement is an academic cere- mony and a degree granting ceremony, so it needs to celebrate academic achievements,” said Meade.
According to Carmen Ambar, Cedar Crest president, even though this policy came into effect before she came to the college, she too is committed to enforcing it.
“At our core we are an academic institu- tion, and while we value all types of success, it is important to have some ceremonies where academic achievement is highlighted,” she expressed.
Ambar attempted to clarify the balanced efforts of the administration.
She said, “Fortunately, throughout the week prior to graduation, there are multiple ceremonies in which we have the opportunity to recognize accomplishments in areas outside of academics.”
In Oswald’s opinion, though, APO con- tributes deeply to her academic success.
“The motto of APO is to be a leader, be a friend, and be of service,” she said. “These are standards that you typically wouldn’t learn in a classroom, but are vital for your future.”
Wearing the cords of APO at graduation would symbolize the finishing piece to the puzzle of her educational experience.
She concluded, “APO has definitely shaped the student that I am today.”
In support of her fellow members, Jennifer Balinsky, president of Kutztown University’s APO, gave her thoughts.
“Their dedication to the principles of lead- ership, friendship, and service make them both good students and good citizens. They should be allowed to wear the symbol of the hard work that they have put into completing work for the betterment of themselves, their college, and their community,” Balinsky exclaimed.
Upon reaching out to Jessica Lelli, the regional APO chair, she could offer only a limited comment.
She explained, “Alpha Phi Omega Na- tional Service Fraternity does not restrict or prohibit the use of cords at graduation, and leaves it to the discretion of the universi-
ty and chapter to determine what is most appropriate in their own situation.”
Senior class president and pledge trainer for APO, Samantha Woodfin, shared her passion for the organization.
“I strongly feel that we, as a stated Honor Society in the commencement booklet, should be able to wear cords to graduation,” she expressed. “Most of us have been in APO since our freshman year and would love to be recognized for what we have put our time and dedication into for so long. It is not our fault that we do not have a GPA re- quirement, we can’t by APO national rules.”
Tammy Bean, director of community service programs at Cedar Crest, is caught in the middle of this intense plea from the members of APO, as she works very closely with these students.
“I respect their request and understand where they are coming from,” she ex- pressed. “I respect everything that they do for the campus community and the greater community beyond Cedar Crest, but gradu- ation is an academic ceremony recognizing students’ academic achievements through their classroom experiences.”
So, as the extraordinary community ser- vice efforts of the APO members of Cedar Crest College continue to enmesh in every inch of what this college stands for, only time will tell if they will be able to bear the very cords that have allowed them to become the students that they are today.