Following the e-mail sent by Dr. Hvastkovs, ECU Provost Dr. Marilyn Sheerer sent an e-mail to chemistry majors who received the initial statement.
Dr .Sheerer wrote, “Please disregard Dr. Hvastkovs’s previous email regarding your departmental graduation statement he sent to you on May 1, 2014 at 8:00:59 PM EDT. I have confirmed with the Chair of the Department of Chemistry that students may submit personal statements, up to 35 words, to be read during the departmental ceremony. These statements can be your personal expressions and as such the University will only limit these expressions, as permitted by applicable First Amendment law.”
ECU officials say they believe allowing students to submit a personal statement for reading during a department graduation ceremony creates a forum for student expression.
Officials say deans and department chairs have been reminded on university policies and practices in regards to voluntary personal statements, and they are using the e-mail from Dr. Hvastkovs to heighten awareness and understanding of practice within the university.
“Religious references of any type will not be restricted,” Dr. Sheerer wrote closing her e-mail to the students. “I regret that, without approval from the appropriate University officials, any other limitations were communicated to you.”