Reality of regalia at OSU: Unsustainable, unsatisfying, unbelievable

Reality of regalia at OSU: Unsustainable, unsatisfying, unbelievable

Congratulations on graduating from Oregon State University! This is a great honor that you should be proud of and celebrate, please pay $140 to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime achievement.

As if college was not expensive enough, it feels like our final thank you from OSU and for students at any university is yet another bill. Something students are all too familiar with but should not have to be.

The total cost of what is essentially single-use regalia exceeds $100 and is required to attend the all-university commencement where students pick up their diplomas they’ve worked for four long years–or more–to earn.

With no option to rent and an insufficient supply of free regalia available, we as students can’t help but feel disappointed, frustrated and manipulated by something that is supposed to symbolize the opposite–the success we’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Ian Hermanson, graduating OSU with an honors bachelors in mechanical engineering with a minor in studio art this term, went to purchase regalia three times and could not bring himself to pay the full amount each time.

“My parents wanted me to get (regalia) and they paid for my college so I should because they want to see me in it (but) I was like, ‘I can’t make myself do this’,” Hermanson said. “It is like I’m being scammed here.”

Rather than paying the full $246 that honors college undergraduate regalia would cost, Hermanson has been searching other sites and borrowing pieces from friends. While Hermanson has gone to strenuous measures to find regalia so he can attend commencement, some are not bothering to go these extra lengths and skipping commencement entirely.

Nathan Schomer, earning his masters in robotics at OSU, is not attending commencement due only to the cost of regalia.

“It just didn’t seem worth it, (it’s) super cheaply made… and it just feels very gross and capitalistic, taking advantage of grads who want to go attend graduation,” Schomer said. “I didn’t feel like spending money on that so I decided not to attend.”

For Schomer, requiring regalia to attend commencement feels like another way for the university to “squeeze out extra money” from students.

But it is not just the cost of the cap and gown that is leaving students with frustrations, it is the quality and lack of sustainability of what we are paying for.

“I expected the quality to be much better for the price,” said Makena Apau who is graduating with her bachelors in engineering with a minor in studio art from OSU.

According to Apau, many of her friends’ gowns ripped from simply wearing them during a photo session.

Jostens, the manufacturer of OSU’s regalia, was not able to be reached for comment on the pricing or quality of their products.

For a school like OSU who seems to pride themselves on sustainability across campus and academic programs, one would expect a sustainable option to participate in graduating from such an institution. Yet there is not a single renting option available to all students despite Josten’s website claiming gowns can be purchased or rented through the company.

Schomer, who did not attend OSU as an undergraduate, is uncertain of what happened to his bachelor’s gown after the ceremony, and said it is “probably in a landfill somewhere.”

“(Sustainability) is a big part of our brand and you can’t manage to do a mass order from Jostens,” Hermanson said. “Just have a big pile of them in MU, and you just wash them and then we use them every year.”

OSU does run a Grads Give Back program where students can donate gowns to be distributed for free the following year; there is nowhere near enough gear available for all students who want or need it. The program also only works with gowns and while they bear the heftiest price tag, the gown is still only one piece of the total.

Apau, Hermanson, Schomer and myself are all left to wonder why there is not a better system in place, even something available by each college, to provide affordable and sustainable regalia to all students.

“I think the problem with the whole Grads Give Back is they’re trying to put the entirety of the recycle program on student shoulders,” Hermanson said. “It’s not going to work.”

At the end of the day though, you either find a way to reuse regalia from others or pay up.

For those who do end up paying for new regalia, the accomplishment such as a high GPA or honors feels diminished, as the only thing standing in your way from choosing regalia you want is a drop down menu.

Hermanson earned a summa cum laude GPA in addition to completion of his honors degree, something he was proud of. The pride felt from his hard work quickly turned to disappointment.

“I kind of had this picture in my head that I would go to the honors college and they would look through a big list of names and they would say, ‘Uh, Ian, yes, you are this’, and then they would hand me the cord, I earned that shit,” Hermanson said.

It seems to boil down to this: the more honors, achievements and accolades you have earned, the greater the price tag. Our achievements begin to look more and more like sunken costs rather than added value.

These achievements should feel like achievements, not punishments or another line item on our seemingly evergrowing bill paid to OSU.

For me, as a first generation college student in the class of 2024, who lacked a high school graduation ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my family has long been awaiting the celebration.

I, too, have looked forward to the traditional cap and gown that have come to symbolize graduation as an honor and the end of a milestone, but I can’t help but think of all these issues that overshadow what should be a great moment.

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    Dave Hockman-WertJun 7, 2024 at 9:19 am

    This did seem expensive, so I went to the Jostens website, which sent me to the OSU Beaver Store website to order OSU campus regalia (link not allowed). The cost shown there is about half of what is claimed in the article: $78 for gown, mortar, and tassel. This doesn’t seem unreasonable.