Gowns get capped
James Gardner hit the jackpot. He bought two caps and two gowns at USU Surplus for $1 each on March 18.
The price of a bachelor’s graduation package from the Campus Store can be more than $40, which includes a cap, gown and tassel. The items were sold at the graduation fair March 18 and 19 outside the Campus Store in the Taggart Student Center.
The next day, Gardner’s friend went to the surplus store to get the same deal, but a sign on the door said the store was no longer selling caps and gowns.
Gardner couldn’t believe it. He was told the day before that inventory for the items was high.
“On Thursday, I submitted a complaint on myVoice,” he said. “I’m just confused why this would happen.”
Gardner doesn’t think a one-time use for a few hours on a Saturday morning merits a $50 purchase.
“It’s like a wedding dress,” he said. “It’s a one-time wear.”
Mike George is the risk manager for Risk Management Services and oversees the functions of the surplus store. He said the sale of the surplus caps and gowns was not intended to compete with the sale of new graduation items through the Campus Store.
He said he received a few concerned calls from multiple people on campus regarding the sale of old caps and gowns. He then decided to stop selling those items.
“We all agreed that was the right thing to do,” George said. “A lot of what is there is old and tattered.”
“It wasn’t intentional on either way,” George said. “We treated it like any other piece of surplus, whether it was a desk or a chair, and it just ended up the timing seemed to be unfortunate.”
According to the policy of the state of Utah, any items from USU intended to be discarded or thrown away go to the surplus store. The store holds those items for two weeks, giving government agencies the first chance to make purchases. After those two weeks, the items are available for sale to the public.
“Unfortunately the two-week window ended at the same time, I guess, they were selling caps and gowns,” George said. “It was not intentional. At surplus, we didn’t even realize that they were selling caps and gowns or any of the arrangements.”
Maren Cartwright, an employee at USU Public Relations and Marketing, said the situation was a misunderstanding between the surplus store and the Campus Store.
“It was bad timing to put them on sale last week,” she said.
Cartwright said the original intent of the old caps and gowns was for occasions like Halloween.
The surplus store obtained the large amount of graduation apparel because more than 10 years ago, the university used a system of renting caps and gowns.
Cartwright said the cost of renting and dry cleaning is more expensive than a student purchasing a new cap and gown. She said the gowns were becoming old and dingy.
The old gowns sold at the surplus store are shiny and either black or blue. The approved gowns sold by the hired vendor, Jostens, are matte black.
Risa Smith, manager of clothing and gifts at the Campus Store, sits on the commencement committee. The group plans graduation committees and hires the outside vendors to sell graduation items.
The committee doesn’t decide what the approved cap and gown will look like. Smith said the decision is handed down from the President’s office.
But there is no official punishment for wearing a cap and gown not sold by Jostens. Smith said she’s seen students wearing different color gowns before.
“It depends on the student, if they feel comfortable enough to wear something different than the majority of the students,” she said.
Cartwright said there’s no consequence from wearing a robe not approved by the President’s office, but the commencement committee wants graduates to look uniform.
“We’re not a police state,” Cartwright said. “We’re going to let people graduate. If they showed up in a blue gown, we might be a little distressed. If they’re a different color, we might try and find something they could wear.”
She said the main idea for graduation, though, is to celebrate the students and their accomplishments.
“It’s a joyous time. We’re excited for the graduates,” Cartwright said. “We want them to be there and be happy ... It should be an exciting time, not a time when graduates are worrying about what to wear.”
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