JAKE VERMEULEN | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Over time at Wabash, traditions change, some fade away, and some new ones crop up. We all know that these traditions are not fixed, but that does not make it any less unfortunate when one of the College’s longest standing traditions fades away. It appears that will be the case when commencement rolls around for the Class of 2020, who will be the first class not to receive their diploma printed on sheepskin parchment.
The news that the College would be moving away from the diplomas first broke on October 2nd, when The Wabash Commentary posted the story on their Facebook page. The news was later confirmed when Wabash President Gregory Hess attended the Student Senate meeting on October 8th. During the meeting, Hess confirmed that diplomas would no longer be printed on sheepskin and took questions on the sheepskins and a number of other issues. Hess pointed primarily to “deteriorating quality” and “inconsistent production” on the sheepskin diplomas for the change, saying the quality recently was, “beneath the great tradition of this College.” However, Hess acknowledged that the communication of the decision was subpar. He said, “I will own that communication here could have been a heck of a lot better.”
When the forum was opened up for students speak, many expressed frustration with the decision, saying that they believed it was motivated by a desire to cut costs. Hess denied this allegation, though he acknowledged that costs on the sheepskins were high and continued to rise. Many other students expressed their frustration with the way this decision was communicated and with similar breakdowns in communication in other decisions that the College has made recently. Some students cited housing changes a couple of years ago, which were made public in an article for The Bachelor, and a general lack of perceived communication from the administration as evidence that the administration was neglecting student opinions.
Hess repeatedly pledged during the meeting to work to improve communication with the student body, offering to come to Student Senate meetings more often and saying that he was open to ideas on how he can best hear student opinions in the future.
The news about the College’s move away from sheepskin diplomas attracted interest from many prominent publications. In addition to The IndyStar, the story was published in The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. The decision from Wabash leaves Virginia Military Institute as the only remaining college in the United States which still uses sheepskin for their diplomas.
The College is still considering exactly how to move forward with the diplomas, and a committee to determine what the next step will be has been formed, including student representatives. However, it appears clear that the sheepskin diplomas are now a thing of the past.