UA unique signs of graduation

By Caitlyn McTier 
Staff Writer 

TUSCALOOSA, ALA -It’s that time of year again– graduation at Alabama. 

At the end of every semester comes the celebration of new graduates. Hours in the library pulling all-nighters and 120 hours of coursework all come to a head as the certification of degrees begins. Universities recognize high honors students with distinctions like Latin honors or cords. UA additionally uses red mortarboards. 

The classic black mortarboard or graduation cap is the standard for graduates nationwide. The University of Alabama, however, goes a step further by having red caps available to students graduating with a 4.0 GPA or higher. 

Various seniors say this distinction is no easy feat, and earning the cap means much more for students like Aleah Brown. 

Brown is a senior graduating in political science. She will attend law school in the fall at The University of Alabama and is excited for the representation of the Black community at graduation. 

“As a Black student, there are not many of us at this school… There are so many unique struggles for African American students, so it’s an honor to be able to represent my peers and Black excellence,” Brown said. 

Brown is one of 15 Black students graduating with a 4.0 GPA this semester, according to the Black Faculty and Staff Association. 

“Representation matters, and I feel like I’ve really made my family proud,” Brown said. 

Other students like Sarah Cassibry, a senior double majoring in news media and English, are relieved that they finally have the red cap secured. She is one of 15 graduating seniors in the news media major with a 4.0 GPA. 

“I think there is a misconception that because I am a communication major that my classes are not challenging, and that it doesn’t take a lot of work to get a red cap,” Cassibry said. “I have worked my tail off for the last four years to make sure that I made it to the day to proudly wear my cap across the stage.” 

UA operates on a plus/minus system for grading. Letter grades A, B, C, and D have the suffix plus (+) or minus (-) included, distinguishing higher and lower performances within each letter grade. An F is not included in the plus/minus distinction. This means that a traditional “A” of a 90 to 100 doesn’t always equal a 4.0 GPA. For most courses, anything between 90 and 93.5 counts as a 3.67 GPA instead. 

Cassibry expressed that this system both helped and hurt her in achieving her goal of a red cap. 

“It’s so hard because you have to always stay on your game. You can’t just barely get by with a 90 in a class. You have to score high enough to guarantee that your GPA doesn’t drop. On the flip side, though, it is nice that you can make an A+ in many classes and get over a 4.0 which has helped me a lot,” Cassibry said. 

While earning a red cap can be thrilling for some, some students find themselves upset with the standards of the hat. Students can deal with difficult coursework or educational barriers that may cause them to fall short of receiving a 4.0 GPA distinction. 

Jackson Fuentes, a senior public relations major, just barely missed the requirement to graduate with a red cap. 

“3.999 GPA. No red cap. Incredibly disappointed with the University of Alabama at this moment… I have worked incredibly hard both in and out of the classroom. I could have just as easily skipped countless meetings to get the (literally) one point I needed on some test/project to move the GPA a literal thousandth of a point. Very disappointed. Angry to say the least,” Fuentez Tweeted. 

Other students like Ismael Jones, a graduating engineering major, agreed that hard work doesn’t always reflect a 4.0 GPA. 

“It’s virtually impossible to have 4.0 as an engineering major. If you do, you probably don’t have a life outside of sitting in a library,” Jones said. 

As the seven 2021 spring commencement ceremonies take place, students’ countless hours poured into schoolwork and extracurricular activities in a fleeting four-year undergraduate program come to a close. 

Regardless of honor groups, cords, or color of mortarboard, students will be connected in at least one similar way– being an alumnus of The University of Alabama.