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Administration confident students will benefit from earlier commencement

Anna Gowin

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In an email sent out on Jan. 27, Provost Amouzegar reminded students that this spring’s commencement date has been moved to Saturday, May 13. This is a change from the way the university has traditionally conducted graduation, with the ceremony taking place a only a day after final exams have ended.

While the change in date has been reflected in the university’s academic calendar from last fall semester, many students were unaware of the change prior to the provost’s email.

The move means that final grades will not be submitted until after commencement takes place, which the provost declared will now be a “ceremonial commencement.” The provost also included the change had been approved by the faculty senate and President Nicklow himself.

Cherie Trumbach, faculty senate president, mentioned the president came to the faculty senate to gauge interest in the change of date. Although the faculty senate did not take a formal vote at the time, the senate members were not in agreement over what to do.  

“However, no one felt a strong opposition to the idea, which I passed along to the president [of the university]. We knew this was a change that they were going to move forward with,” Trumbach said.  Without anyone who felt strongly in favor of keeping the commencement at a later date, the faculty senate saw no reason to veto the change.

“A lot of universities do commencement this way,” Trumbach said. “This is how my graduation was at Stanford.”

“The president is always looking for new ways to help students and faculty.” Trumbach said that earlier graduation is a way of doing this while also resolving problems that have been presented in the past.

In his email, the provost said, “Many of you will be eager to move on to your new jobs, your summer plans or the next chapter in your life, and we see no reason why you should have to wait an entire week for that to happen.”

“In the past, students have been left on campus for an entire week without anything to do, maybe wanting to move on to a job but having to wait.”

Senior English major Anna Young expressed that this is the reason why she is happy about the change in commencement date. “I actually plan on moving after graduation, so the earlier date is beneficial for me,” she said.

James Mokhiber, an associate professor in the history department and current secretary of the faculty senate brought up another reason why an earlier commencement could be beneficial to students. “Because so many students find themselves in the position of inviting family and making costly decisions at graduation, I can see the appeal of a ‘walk-through policy’ that delays the conferring of a formal diploma.”

A ‘walk-though’ is another name for a ceremonial commencement, in which students do not technically receive their diploma until after graduation.

Trumbach shared the sentiment that an earlier date removes the issue of students making plans around graduation and then finding out too late that they wouldn’t be allowed to walk.

“A lot of people run into the issue of inviting family to come in, and then find out at the last minute they didn’t graduate.” She said that this way students can do what they have traditionally done; take a few additional classes over the summer or the following fall to complete degree requirements, while still being able to celebrate with family and walk during commencement.

Joy Ballard, a political science graduate student, felt this way. “I’m in favor of anything that helps more students celebrate their graduation with as many friends and family as possible,” she said. “My mom was unable to attend my master’s graduation because she couldn’t take off that day. I think this is a great move for the university.”

However, students like Lauren Burgess, a senior English major who hopes to attend graduate school, brought up how this may impact students negatively.

“I basically know my grades long before when final grades are due, so it’s not a big deal for me … However, there are people who may be on thin ice or don’t know their grades. It’s really hectic to finish finals, then wake up the next day with no break and walk across a stage thinking it might be in vain.” In fact, she added the situation would be hectic for anyone regardless of their grades.

Trumbach said that because of what faculty has seen in years past, she is generally not worried about students who are unsure of their graduation status when they walk.

“We would much rather benefit a majority of students, then later deal with the exceptions,” Trumbach said.

Burgess was not the only student who expressed concern about the lack of time between finals and graduation.

Jared Buck, a graduating jazz studies major, said “with it being in the middle of finals week and the move-out day for students living in the dorms, I’m worried I won’t be able to get the chance to relax and celebrate, and instead it will just feel in the way of other things I have to take care of that week.”

However, both Mokhiber and Trumbach felt confident that a majority of students will gain from the change. Mokhiber said, “I think that the administration has the best interests of students at heart on this matter.”

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The student news site of the University of New Orleans
Administration confident students will benefit from earlier commencement