Illustration by Joe Lai.
Illustration by Joe Lai.

The end of spring marks a time that many seniors either dread or embrace: graduation. 

For some, graduate school is around the bend, while others are looking to start their careers. At College Eight, no matter what students’ next step may be, they are asked to take into consideration more than just their future goals.

“Given the theme of College Eight, being ‘Environment and Society,’ I thought it was appropriate to bring [the pledge] to the attention of the college,” said Mike Kittredge, College Eight programs coordinator. “Then I brought it to the attention of our senior graduation committee last year and they decided to run with it and make it part of the College Eight commencement.”

Kittredge helped incorporate the Graduation Pledge Alliance (GPA) into College Eight’s commencement ceremony last year. 

The pledge that all College Eight graduates have the option of taking states: “I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work.” 

For graduating legal studies major Ryan Estes, this pledge is much more than just an empty promise.

“I’m going to grow up to be a corporate lawyer,” Estes said. “So when I take this pledge I take it to not go join a company like ENRON or Washington Mutual, or go work for a company that’s going to go destroy all the rainforests of the world. I’m just talking about a sense of high moral standards.”

Currently, UCSC is the only UC campus to partake in this pledge and College Eight is the only college that has proactively worked to have its graduating class take the pledge.

Fourth-year environmental studies major Jessica Wackenhut believes that all colleges should be making their graduating students more aware of the pledge.

“I think it’s important for all colleges to do something like this because it is one of those things,” Wackenhut said. “Most of the colleges are engaged in social issues like globalization or social justice, so it’s important for everyone to be knowledgeable or take this into consideration when going into their future careers. They need to think about social justice and environmental issues and sustainability in general.”

College Eight’s incorporation of the pledge into its ceremony is unique, even for institutions that participate in the pledge.

“There’s not many [institutions] that actually incorporate the pledge into their ceremony,” Kittredge said. “The way we do it is that we ask students who have either taken it or plan to take it stand and be recognized by the audience.”

Kittredge recalls how he first learned about the pledge when he worked as clubs, activities and new student programs officer at Humboldt State University, one of the first institutions to participate in the pledge.

At Humboldt State, students would table in their quads to raise awareness about the pledge and inform other students about how they could take it. For College Eight seniors, taking the pledge is as easy as going online to the college’s commencement website. Estes and Wackenhut, both part of College Eight’s graduation committee, will also table at rehearsal and on graduation day to ensure that every senior who wants to take the pledge can and will.

“I feel like [students] are not really informed about it at all yet,” Estes said. “It’s only its second year, so only the graduating class hears of it actually. They might want to think about telling the freshmen when they first come in, that when they graduate they’ll have a chance to be part of the GPA.”

However, Kittredge stresses that the pledge is a personal decision and students will by no means be held accountable.

“It’s just a voluntary pledge. No one follows up with them to say, ‘You’re doing this and you’re not doing that,’” Kittredge said. “I think it’s more a statement of value, of someone’s individual values and choices.”