Graduation changes spark concern among students


Spring 2016 commencement speaker Stephen Schilling delivers speech to the graduating class. Ben Patton/The Runner

By Javier Valdes and 

Annie Russell

The Runner Staff

Graduation commencement discussions have triggered concern within CSU Bakersfield students as the possibilities of a ceremony where students won’t cross the stage or be individually recognized were being explored by the administrative cabinet.

Following an open forum event at the Albertson Room on Oct. 12, CSUB Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jenny Zorn announced that one thing is clear, “The reading of names is important and no substitution seems viable. So, we will maintain that.”

Zorn scheduled two open forums for faculty, in an effort to gain different perspectives, as administration continues to seek for the best options, in terms of location and structure, for the approaching commencement.
Students, faculty and staff arrived to a crowded room to discuss the changes that were being explored in regards to graduation, including the rumored removal of students crossing the stage and being individually recognized.

CSUB senior communications major Jovanni Hernandez addressed Zorn with his concerns and advocated for students wanting individual recognition during the ceremony.

“I had great hopes coming to CSUB, I may be the first to graduate with my bachelors and I want my grandma to see me walk down the stage,” said Hernandez. “Maybe it’s something simple but it’s more that just the process of getting my name called—it’s a cultural, it’s a psychological significance to my family and myself.

“This school has made a lot of decisions that I don’t agree with and I sat back and I brushed it off, I said ‘Hey you know what, I’ll pay higher fees. Hey you know what, I’ll fund a program that I don’t believe in,’ but I believe in this, so that’s why I’m speaking up today.”

Many of the students attending the forum echoed Hernandez’s concerns regarding crossing the stage during the ceremony.

“I’m here because I care,” said senior psychology major Taylor Pouncy. “I think it’s an important rite of passage…and I think we’re all entitled to it.”

Also in the midst of the crowded forum were numerous first-generation graduates who expressed their dreams of wanting to cross the stage.

“I personally want to cross the stage because that has been my dream and I’m a first-generation college student,” said senior sociology major Maricruz Leon. “I’ll be a first-generation graduate, so it’s very important to me and my family for me to get called and cross the stage.”

Similarly, crossing the stage has been a dream for senior communications major Miel Rivera, who thinks individual recognition is a vital necessity in the spring 2017 ceremony.

“It makes me really upset because this is something I feel like most of us have dreamed of since we were little and it has taken us a lot of work and dedication,” said Rivera.

As for now, administrators continue to explore the impending plans in terms of location and the structure of the ceremonies. Zorn said that they are looking at the soccer stadium as a possible location for commencement.

The new location would replace the amphitheater as the crowds have outgrown the venue over the years. The new location would eliminate the need for the ticket system and would remove the limit of people that graduates can invite to the ceremony.

Talks about creating an overflow into the Icardo Center have also been explored.

Zorn said during the discussion that there is no doubt that there will be names called out during the ceremony and that they are now exploring two different options, both of which would feature individual recognition of each graduate.

As of now the committee is looking at a May 19 ceremony that would consist of one undergraduate ceremony comprised of all four schools, the ceremony would last upward of two hours and would be followed by a campus-wide reception.

Another option that the committee is looking at is having two different undergraduate ceremonies, both during the same day; each ceremony would graduate two schools, which would shorten the ceremony time.

The possibility of a reception following the ceremonies is still being explored.

With upward of 1,500 students expected to graduate spring 2017, Zorn said that parking is another issue that they are looking it at, since having one ceremony would surely fill the campus parking.

Yet, having two ceremonies could cause problems. Getting people in and out of campus would be an area of concern since families like to take pictures around campus following graduation ceremonies.

As for now, these are still ideas that are being explored there are no final changes being made yet but the committee is expected to continue the search for student, faculty and staff input as they make a decision before the end of the semester.