Commencement exercises reviewed

Changes include universitywide spring ceremony

by Sally Claunch
The Shorthorn staff

Administrators are exploring whether to change commencement exercises to meet students' desires.

Kent Gardner, senior associate vice president for students affairs and dean of students, said that at the Dean's Council meeting two weeks ago, some expressed how cumbersome all the different ceremonies were and talked about recent negative articles about the event published in the local media.

Vice Provost Dana Dunn said some students have voiced the desire to have a large event, rather than roughly 30 individual commencement ceremonies each college or school holds throughout the year. She said some have expressed a desire for a nationally-known person to give the commencement address.

"Occasionally we hear comments like, 'We want a well-known speaker and a big event,'" she said.

She said the administration decided to "take the pulse" of students and see what they want out of commencement.

Mary Ridgway, vice president for undergraduate academic and student affairs, and Dr. Gardner went to the President's Student Advisory Council and asked them what students want.

"This is the students' deal - this is their moment," Dr. Ridgway said. "Anything I can do to accommodate them, that's what I want to do."

Organizational communication senior Seth Ressl, who represents EX-CEL campus activities on the council, said the council considered three proposals on commencement: The university could hold a universitywide graduation ceremony in the spring and fall with a big-name speaker, have a universitywide May ceremony with a big-name speaker and keep fall and summer the same, or keep the status quo.

"I got a strong feeling from the group, in my opinion, to have a larger ceremony," Gardner said. "I kind of like the idea of having something for everyone. It would help instill excitement and pride and be a good way to close out their career."

Accounting senior Mark Neon said he thought consolidating some of the ceremonies would make the university appear more traditional and prestigious.

"I know that at other schools, commencement is a big thing," he said. "Something of that magnitude could bring in a big-name speaker and be a more recognizable event."

Ridgway said the larger ceremony and a notable speaker would make the community take notice.

She said the larger ceremony is more traditional and would bring a sense of community to the event, which is something the university is trying to cultivate.

Gardner said a change would not come next year, but perhaps in the year after that.

"This would be a long-term thing," he said.

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