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ECU chemistry students allowed to mention God during dept. cerem - Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

ECU chemistry students allowed to mention God during dept. ceremony

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GREENVILLE, N.C. - An e-mail sent by an East Carolina University faculty member left some chemistry students outraged.

Dr.Hvastkovs, with East Carolina University, sent an e-mail May 1st with guidelines for voluntary personal statements.

ECU officials say the e-mail was not authorized by the university, and related to the chemistry department’s recognition ceremony, not the formal commencement ceremony scheduled for Friday, May 8th.

An e-mail from Dr. Eli Hvastkovs was posted on a website called Campus Reform. The e-mail gives students guidelines for a brief speech at their department graduation.

Dr. Hvastkovs says in the e-mail, “You can’t thank God. I’m sorry about this – and I don’t want to have to outline the reasons why.”
Officials say immediate and deliberate steps were taken to notify students of the legally permissible constraints that were associated with Dr. Hvastkovs voluntary personal statements.

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.”    

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