Department graduations took place Friday night at East Carolina University. WITN was at the chemistry ceremonies following the controversy this week over the email that first said students could not thank God in graduation statements.
Parents and students alike have mixed responses.
"It's their day. It's their moment," says parent Scott Taylor. "Okay, you want feedback from them. You want a statement about what's going on, but it's so personal. If you believe in God or not shouldn't be the issue. But for a lot of people, that's very important to them."
The email, written by assistant chemistry professor Dr. Eli Hvastkovs, said, "You can't thank God. I'm sorry about this- and I don't want to have to outline the reasons why." Hvastkovs was outlining the students 35-word statements to be read as they graduated. One day after the email, ECU's Provost told students to disregard Hvastkovs' request.
At Friday's ceremony, graduating senior Rachel Pollard stood by Hvastkovs.
"I definitely did stick by his decision," says Pollard. "I feel like he was blamed for a lot of things and there was a lot of negative press on him, which wasn't really warranted."
Pollard says the assistant professor is a good person who is well respected in the chemistry department.
Hvastkovs has since apologized for his "poorly worded, poorly thought out email." The university has not said whether he will face any punishment.
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