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LIU Pharmacy Hooding Ceremony to Join Commencement, Shocking Students and Alumni

Students speak out regarding this change and demand closure from administration


LIU Pharmacy students take the Oath of a Pharmacist at the 2023 white coat ceremony (Photo: Patrick Campbell)

On March 14, students of the LIU Pharmacy Pharm.D. program were alerted to news that the University would no longer be hosting a private hooding ceremony for the Class of 2023.

A hooding ceremony is a time-honored tradition in pharmacy as well as other post-graduate degrees that is celebrated for students to mark the completion of their degree program.

To LIU Pharmacy students, the hooding ceremony is a symbol of six years of hard work and dedication that is marked with the traditional presentation of an academic hood, similar to a graduation stole.

The bestowing of hoods to graduates often takes place at a ceremony where friends, family, professors and administrators gather to celebrate the graduating class.

Now, the Class of 2023 is facing an unforeseen change to their ceremony.

LIU Decides to Merge the Pharmacy Hooding Ceremony With Commencement

The Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program at The Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is Brooklyn’s only Pharmacy school and has a 130-year legacy.

Pharmacy Class President Ahmed Elsayed and Vice President Engy Dous claim that they were invited to a Zoom meeting which they believed was meant to confirm the University’s plans for the hooding ceremony.

However, during the meeting with Pharmacy Dean of Students, Arash Dabestani, and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Randy Burd, Elsayed and Dous were informed of the administration’s decision to consolidate the Pharmacy school’s private hooding ceremony with the university-wide commencement held on May 18 at the Barclays Center.

“​​When we asked about the reasoning behind that, it was basically the school trying to unify every student and every program of the school into this one commencement,” said Dous.

However, Elsayed and Dous have been advocating for a private hooding ceremony since last August, before the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year.

“We were very direct and very clear and honest in communication both ways, with the Dean and with the students in regards to having a special day: a distinct hooding ceremony where we wanted to have it better than the one that we had last year,” said Elsayed. “So when we were informed that we were not having a distinct hooding ceremony, it was a clear shock, not just for us, but the entire class.”

Students React

The growing sentiment among graduating pharmacy students is that they feel it doesn’t make sense for the hooding to take place at commencement.

Following their meeting with the administration, Elsayed and Dous decided that they wanted to be the first to inform their classmates of the University’s decision. As students received the news, several members of the class began reaching out to the administration.

“I am the first one in my family to ever receive a doctoral degree. My educational path is completely unique to those in my lineage,” said sixth-year Pharmacy student Alexander Miles in an email to the administration. “I am not writing to you today so that I can tell you how much I deserve this ceremony; I am writing to tell you that they deserve this ceremony.”

“I think it's really important for us to be able to get some awareness out there to help people understand that we have been through a lot. We're trying to accomplish a lot, and we're trying to get places. We just think that we are deserving of this really simple thing,” said Sabeen Rizwan, whose growing petition has garnered over 1,200 signatures in support of a private ceremony.

Elsayed also pointed out that having the hooding ceremony at commencement would be less “intimate” compared to a private ceremony.

“I feel like the two events have two completely different missions,” said Elsayed.

A History of Hooding Ceremonies on the Brink

The decision to cancel LIU Pharmacy’s private hooding ceremony is only the latest attempt by the University to do so.

According to a petition on, the Pharmacy class of 2019 was informed on December 18, 2018 that their hooding ceremony, which was to be held at the LIU Post Tilles Center, was canceled without explanation.

The petition was signed by more than 4,000 supporters and gained enough recognition to be formally addressed by the administration.

In an update posted on January 14, 2019, user Mohamed Elmarakbi shared that the University had restored their original promise to hold a hooding ceremony for the Class of 2019.

The update also shares that, “We were notified that the LIU Pharmacy Class of 2019 hooding ceremony will be held at the Tilles Center at LIU Post. Dr. Bird [sic] also assured the student body that moving forward, there will be input from the students in regards to their hooding ceremony.”

Just two years later, however, the Class of 2021 also faced the threat of having their hooding ceremony canceled, but this time with a clear reason, that being the ongoing pandemic. It is unclear whether they were allowed to have their hooding ceremony.

Given these circumstances, this year’s pharmacy graduates remain unsure that the university will be able to rectify the situation.

In a poll conducted on the Seawanhaka Instagram (@LIUBKNews), 85 percent of respondents shared that they are “not confident” that LIU will host a private hooding ceremony.

“I think it's way too late for LIU to try to organize a separate hooding ceremony for us,” said sixth-year pharmacy student, Mark Maranan.

Maranan continued saying, “There's so much that goes into it that I don't think that there really is enough time for LIU to give us a separate hooding ceremony. So I've kind of given up on hoping for that.”

The Administration Responds

On March 17, three days after Dous and Elsayed had forewarned their fellow classmates of the university’s decision, Pharmacy students received official communications from the administration regarding senior events.

The email sent by Dabestani reads, “Pharmacy graduates to be hooded, receive diplomas on stage and photographed in graduating [sic] regalia. We will also recite the Oath of the Pharmacist and the class Valedictorian will be offered the stage to address all graduating LIU students.”

In response to the myriad requests and emails from Pharmacy students, Dabestani sent an email to students the following day.

The email begins by acknowledging the “news on graduation.”

“I assure you that we've been working with urgency to provide answers to all graduation questions. It has not been a lack of transparency issue; simply put, we didn't have enough confirmed details to share with your class until yesterday,” said Dabestani.

Dabestani’s email ends, “Congratulations on your upcoming graduation and please feel free to stop by my office at any time.”

In a statement to Seawanhaka, Dabestani said, “Student requests over recent years indicated their desire to celebrate commencement as part of the Long Island University family. The LIU Pharmacy Class of 2023 graduates are making a noteworthy step towards their chosen careers, and they will be individually hooded and receive diplomas on stage at the Barclays Center as part of our University-wide ceremony. Graduates will recite the Oath of the Pharmacist, and the class Valedictorian from the school will be included in addresses that day, as the entire LIU community honors their momentous achievement.”

However, according to a poll conducted by Elsayed and Dous on March 14 on the preferences of students regarding their hooding ceremony, 87.2 percent of graduating pharmacy students indicated that they would prefer a hooding ceremony separate from the university-wide Commencement on May 18.

“You know, we're not asking for anything that's really out of the ordinary, this is something that several other people across the country will get to experience during their pharmacy school graduations. So why not us?” said Rizwan.

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