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U-Md. President Rebuffs Campus Senate, Allows Prayer at Commencement to Continue

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By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 10, 2009

University of Maryland President C.D. Mote Jr., in a rare rebuff of the school's senate, announced yesterday that commencement ceremonies would continue to include an invocation.

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"For many people, a prayer of gratitude and a moment of reflection are an important part of our commencement tradition," Mote said in a statement released yesterday. "A great many people who participate in our ceremonies either embrace this tradition or are willing to allow others who value it to have it as part of the ceremony."

After a long study, the 175-member senate -- composed of faculty, students and staff members -- voted 42 to 14 on Monday to abolish the prayer, a long-standing feature of the graduation ceremony. Senate Chair Kenneth Holum said many people on the large and diverse campus "felt excluded or marginalized" by previous prayers.

University spokesman Lee Tune said the school received many calls and e-mails in response to the vote, "most supporting a continuance of our tradition of having an invocation at commencement."

Elise Miller-Hooks, chair-elect of the senate and an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, said: "It's pretty rare that [Mote] would do something like this and choose to go against the recommendation of the senate. He must have strong reasons for that."

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