On Tuesday, February 23, students gathered in Love Auditorium for an open forum discussion about ordering maroon sweaters to be worn by the Class of 2016, which had been previously linked to discussions about modifying the Torchlight ceremony in May. Senior Samantha Hom initially proposed the idea of class sweaters as an alternative attire option for the ceremony, since some students, staff and faculty members were concerned with the tradition’s visual elements.
Torchlight is a long-standing tradition at Colgate in which seniors process down the hill carrying a torch and wearing a graduation gown on the eve of Commencement. Some community members have claimed that the combination of a torch and a robe presents an optical similarity between Torchlight and a Ku Klux Klan rally, which makes the ceremony inherently exclusive as some students and their families may be too uncomfortable to participate or attend.
The administration has stated that they will not dictate what students wear this year for the Torchlight ceremony.
However, after impassioned debate among the Class of 2016 about the Torchlight tradition, Hom has decided to pursue the idea of class sweaters while separating the proposal from the issue of what seniors will wear at Torchlight.
“While this project has been tied to conversations about Torchlight in the past, going forward this will be focused strictly on sweaters,” Hom wrote on the open forum’s Facebook event description.
At the open forum, Hom presented details about the sweaters. They are 100 percent acrylic, and maroon with a white Colgate block “C” on the front. In addition, a 1.5 by .5 inch “2016” will be embroidered on the left sleeve. Students will be able to order the sweater until Friday, March 11.
Senior Providence Ryan expressed excitement about the prospect of the sweaters becoming a new Colgate tradition.
“We all got t-shirts when we got here, and that’s the only thing that every Class of 2016 person has that unites us, so it’s cool that we have the opportunity to have access to something that will do the same thing when we’re leaving Colgate,” Ryan said.
As of now, the sweater costs about $40. Originally, Hom was in contact with a company called Hillflint, which would have charged between $60 and $85 for a similar sweater. In order to respond to student concerns about the high price, Hom is now working with Halo Branding Solutions.
Money has been a prime concern for Hom throughout this process. She has expressed concerns that the sweater may or may not be financially accessible to all students in the Class of 2016. At the beginning of this process, Hom met with members of the administration to discuss the possibility of receiving funding for the sweaters. The administration has stated it will not be able to subsidize the class sweaters.
Hom spoke at the Student Government Association (SGA) Senate meeting two weeks ago, during which a bill expressing interest in the sweaters becoming a permanent Colgate tradition passed by a majority.
Junior Ciara Swan is excited to use Hom’s experience with the clothing order process to repeat the sweater opportunity next year for the Class of 2017.
“I feel that we need something we can all get together with, and we need something to help build a community. We get a t-shirt coming in, why don’t we get a sweater going out? It will create unity,” Swan said.
However, other students remain hesitant about the proposal. Senior Tobias Lescht expressed the opinion that, despite Hom’s efforts to distance the class sweaters from the debate about the Torchlight tradition, the two topics are closely linked. He also does not believe that the administration subsidizing class sweaters in future years would be productive.
“In most minds [the sweater proposal] is still related to Torchlight, and you can’t really disassociate it from that movement. I don’t really have a problem with that – I actually think it would be better if it wasn’t related to Torchlight. I’m not really against the sweaters. I just don’t think the school should fund it; I think it’s a waste of money,” Lescht said.
Lescht also commented on the open forum’s audience turnout.
“I wish more people would have come. I think people feel alienated a little bit from this.”