SDSU grads need to rent their gowns

Tony Gorder

Tony Gorder

Students counting on borrowing a friend or older sibling’s used graduation gown will not have that option come May commencement, as SDSU is switching to rental graduation gowns starting this May.

University Bookstore Manager Derek Peterson said he started thinking about the rental system last May when he saw an article in the Argus Leader about waste from commencements across the U.S. due to “one-trip” or single-use gowns.

“[The article] focused on how many millions of cubic yards of waste a year the U.S. produces from graduation regalia ? how much of that was going into the landfill after a one-hour or two-hour ceremony,” said Peterson.

So this fall, at the end of a three-year contract, Peterson looked for suppliers who offered a rental system. He got prices from vendors and took the options to administrators.

“We looked at all the different options,” said Peterson. “We looked at prices, and we talked a little bit about sustainability and SDSU doing their part to try and reduce our waste footprint, and we just decided this might be the year to try it.”

Willsie Cap and Gown out of Omaha, Neb., was chosen as the vendor. The location in Omaha was beneficial, according to Peterson. If there is a size dilemma, a replacement could be here in Brookings in one day, he said.

The idea of having rental gowns is not new but has not been in practice for some time, said Peterson.

“Twenty years ago, everything was rental; this was the norm. And then what came about was companies started coming out with this cheaper, almost paper fabric. ? Those gowns were made for one commencement,” he said. “The quality of gown is just night and day. The look at commencement this year in a full cloth rental gown – it’s going to be a nice looking ceremony.”

The pricing for renting as opposed to buying is a slight increase. Undergraduate gowns last year cost $19.95, with graduate gowns costing $40.95. This year’s new rental gowns cost $20 and $45 for undergraduate and graduate attire, respectively.

The process for getting the gowns remains unchanged, said Peterson.

“It is really not going to be any different. They still have to check in with us. We size them. Now what happens is they get a nice little box, and inside the box is their cap, their gown, their hood if they are graduate students and their tassel – one price. It’s all rung up at one time.”

The hood included with the graduate gown is the reason for the larger price jump, as compared to the undergraduate gown, said Peterson.

Students will also have to fill out some paperwork.

“[Students] fill out a three-part form. They take a part with them, and the store keeps two parts. At commencement, we want these kids to bring their slip with them,” said Peterson.

Five tables will be set up in the two corridors of Frost Arena that exit north – a total of 10 tables – for students to return their gowns after the graduation ceremony, Peterson said.

“They’ll just walk out, take their gown off, lay their gown on the table with the slip and on their merry way they’ll go,” he said. “They keep the hat and tassels for themselves.”

Students will not be able to use hand-me-down gowns, however.

“We’re told that they’re not [allowed to use old gowns],” said Peterson. “We’ve done some mailing. I know the administration’s put out a mailing to all the graduates and informed them of the change. We did a mailing informing everybody of the change. ? I know a lot of people were sharing them, and fraternities and sororities were kind of keeping stock of them.”

Peterson said they are currently working with Greek Life advisers in order to make sure everyone is aware that old gowns cannot be reused.

“We’re making an attempt to be set up at Frost [Arena] the day of commence, so if kids come in with those [old] gowns, we’ll make sure we get them swapped out so they’re in the proper attire.”

Ashley Rubin, a sophomore consumer affairs major from Brandon, S.D., liked the decision to switch.

“You’re not going to wear the gown again, so why do you need to buy it?” said Rubin. “As long as it doesn’t cost much more, I don’t think it’s a problem.”

“It could be good and make things look nice. It really doesn’t matter [if you rent or buy it] because you use it once and then it’s over,” said Brian Diede, a junior biology major from Huron, S.D.

However, Diede did not like the fact that students would not be allowed to use the older, hand-me-down gowns.

“With that, I think they’re just trying to make money,” he said.

Peterson said he hoped students were okay with the switch.

“From a commencement standpoint, it’s going to be nice to see. Those other gowns kind of look shiny and cheap; these are real cloth gowns,” said Peterson. “And the other point is we’re doing something for the environment. We’re making a statement. We are one of the first schools in the state to go back, and I think SDSU prides itself on setting the trends of the state.”

#1.881739:374358044.jpg:DSC_0357.1.jpg:Graduating seniors sign up to rent a cap and gown. Starting this year, students will rent gowns but be able to keep their caps and gowns.:Ethan Swanson