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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Diversity, equity official to leave GW in July
By Jenna Lee, Assistant News Editor • June 8, 2024

Senior hopes to end invocation

Graduating senior John Beers is on a mission to remove the prayer from GW’s Commencement ceremony because he feels it is unnecessary and alienates atheist students.

Beers spoke up during last week’s SA senate meeting, saying he finds the University’s practice of conducting an invocation and benediction during Commencement “extremely disheartening.”

“It doesn’t seem right to me to be inserting something [religious],” said Beers, a senior. “We’re brought together for a common goal, not to pray.”

Beers, a self-proclaimed atheist, said that even though the University has a rotating schedule of prayers from different faiths, “they’re always leaving out people, no matter who they choose.”

Beers is also the president of SKEPTIC, a student organization that serves as a home for atheists and agnostics on campus.

“It’s supposed to be inclusive of the entire student body, and that includes people of faith and not of faith,” Beers said. “They say ‘We don’t mean to exclude anyone,’ but that’s exactly what it’s doing.”

Beers said that an April 6 vote at the University of Maryland to eliminate their Commencement prayer drove him to look into GW’s own practices.

The University of Maryland’s senate, composed of students, faculty and staff members, voted 32-14 to remove prayer from their campuswide graduation ceremony this week. University President Dan Mote overruled the decision three days later.

University Marshal Jill Kasle confirmed that GW will maintain an invocation and benediction at the Commencement ceremony.

“It is our custom to invoke God’s blessing on the graduating class on their last day at GW as they go onto the world,” Kasle said. “It is a tradition of long standing, and we are simply following the protocol of the event.”

Former SA Executive Vice President Brand Kroeger and current EVP Kyle Boyer spoke after Beers at Tuesday’s meeting. They said it disturbed them that there were students who felt the invocation and benediction are harmful to students.

“There’s an old adage that says if it’s not broken don’t fix it,” said Boyer, a junior. “[The prayer] is not uttered necessarily in the name of one particular god.”

Due to a production error, the final word of this article was missing from the print edition.

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