CSUN faculty members held a meeting to discuss changing the 2015 commencement from a weekday event to one that takes place on the weekend.
Commencements were originally scheduled for Tuesday, May 19 through Thursday, May 21 with honors convocation held Monday, May 18. The new proposed dates for commencements are Saturday, May 16 through Monday, May 18 with honors convocation held Friday May 15.
The change comes in an attempt to accommodate the availability of family and friends of graduating students who plan to attend the ceremonies, as well as traffic and parking concerns.
Current commencement seating plans include 10,500 seats for guests allowing graduates to invite a total of seven guests each.
The open forum meetings were led by William Whiting, associate vice president for faculty affairs, and William Watkins, vice president for student affairs. There were no students in attendance.
Whiting said that CSUN President Dianne Harrison indicated she would like commencement to be held on weekends
“We are not setting a precedent by any means necessary,” he said.
All other campuses with the exception of CSU Long Beach and CSU Stanislaus hold their commencement ceremonies Friday through Sunday.
“Having it mid-week, we’re the exception, rather than rule,” Whiting said.
As a result of the weekend commencement, the schedule for finals will be changed slightly, with Saturday classes having their final exams a week early. Instead of finals beginning Monday, May 11 and ending Saturday, May 16. They will begin Saturday May, 9 and end Friday, May 15.
With certain commencement ceremonies being held on Saturdays and Sundays, Whiting said there might be a conflict with regards to religious ceremonies occurring on the same day.
“No student will be denied the right to attend a commencement based on a religious conflict,” he said.
He added that it may not be on the day of their college’s graduation, but the student would be able to attend a ceremony and hear their name called.
Another reason for the change in graduation dates has to do with a conflict with the Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting dates, which as Whiting said, are scheduled, “well in advance.”
This year’s commencement ceremonies, which were originally scheduled for Tuesday, May 20 through Thursday May 22, will instead begin on Monday, May 19, with no ceremonies taking place on Tuesday due to Harrison’s commitments to the BOT meetings.
Advantages to weekend commencements, Whiting said, include more of a chance for working families to attend and because it’s easier for people visiting from out of town.
“We’re trying to do what is in the students, and their family and friends best interests, by and large,” he said.
Staff that work the event can get compensatory hours so that they will be able to work the event and not get paid overtime.
Fall commencements have also been investigated but, there are no plans for them due to a lack of facilities with consideration to weather. A fall commencement would require six to seven different ceremonies to accommodate the number of students and guests.
“Logistically and for facility reasons that wouldn’t work.
Regarding this year’s graduation, Whiting echoed the need for a ticketed commencement. “We would love to be able to have students to bring as many people as they want, but it’s just a public safety concern.”
The number of guests allowed per student may be re-evaluated after the May 2015 commencements with consideration that it will be the first time it is held on a weekend.
“There are going to be a lot of eyes watching this year, learning from this year.” As far as other changes to commencement, Whiting said those hadn’t been decided yet.
“One thing is for sure, we’re not going back to the Hollywood Bowl,” he said. Whiting was referring to the 1989 commencement ceremony which created an hours long traffic jam on the 101 freeway. “People were actually parking their cars on the freeway and walking to the Bowl for commencement,” he said.
The 2014-2015 academic calendar needs to be submitted to the CSU Chancellor’s office by Feb. 7.
“What happens on those days is a whole other issue, as to how many ceremonies, how it’s split up, where it is,” Whiting said. “The CSU needs to know when we do it not how we do it.”
Christopher Woolett, Associated Students (AS) president, later said that he spoke to students to see how they felt. “For the most part, it doesn’t seem to me that students really had a preference as to whether it was on a weekend or a weekday.”
Woolett said he and other senate members asked some CSUN students about the proposed change in order to get feedback. He said students didn’t seem to mind as long as they had enough notice.
“It seems like a logical move to me,” Woolett said. “I think there are more benefits to downsides for this one.”
He said it will be discussed during the AS meeting on Monday. Also said if students want to go meeting and voice their opinion, they may.
“It was one of those things where we kind of had to make a spilt decision and really just rely on the small group of students that we talked to,” Woolett said.
Even with this proposed change, Woolett feels there may still be students who don’t know about this year’s commencement changes, and said he wants to focus on that this year.
“My hope is that my successor would be the one putting out the word for the 2015 commencement ceremony early on in the summer going into the school year,” Woolett said.
Woolett, who is graduating this year, said he hopes that his successor will be the one putting the word out for the 2015 commencement, by summer of this year, but was happy that the ceremonies are still taking place over three days.
“What it looks like, to me, is they are still putting in the three commencement ceremonies, which is greatly appreciated on my side because that still means that the students’ voice is still heard.”
Last semester, CSUN administration decided to adopt a ticketing system for the graduation ceremonies which would give students four tickets in order to invite friends and family to their commencement.
The change, however, was met with outrage. Danielle Yehuda, 22, senior psychology major, started an online petition on Change.org, which amassed almost 1,600 signatures from students and community members expressing their displeasure with the university’s decision.
Over winter break, officials decided to increase the number of tickets for students to seven instead of four after Associated Students proposed the increase along with other changes to commencement such as adding a third day to this year’s ceremony.
Contributing reporting by Alex Vejar & Whitney Shepard