CSUB lifts cap on graduation guests


Illustration by Bre Parks

After listening to former graduates’ complaints about ticket limits, CSU Bakersfield will not require tickets after all for the 2019 commencement ceremony. An email was sent on Feb. 20 to all graduating seniors informing them that CSUB had “conducted a thorough review and in-depth discussion” and determined that no guest tickets would be required. 

Last spring, students were allowed seven tickets for graduation, but some students claimed it was not enough to accommodate students’ desired guest lists. 

CSUB Interim Provost Vernon Harper stated that the commencement committee felt comfortable in removing tickets.

“Over the course of the multiple cycles that the commencement ceremony was being offered in the soccer field, we did a bit of forecasting and analysis that allows us to analyze the seating capacity, the facility, and the number of parents and family,” said Harper. 

The scheduled date for commencement is Friday, May 24. Doors open at 5:30 a.m. and the ceremony starts at 7:30 a.m. Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis.

[easypoll id=”1″]

“It is going to be a busy event of course, as any commencement will be, and we ask that people allot the appropriate time in order to arrive at the event at the time it starts,” said Harper.

Parking is expected to be congested and CSUB asks graduates and guests to arrive early. Shuttles will also be available to transport guests from the farthest parts of campus to the soccer field. 

Dina Ebling, senior specialist for commencement and academic affairs, said the decision to follow a no ticket policy was made to accommodate students. 

“We try to listen to students and every year we learn new logistics in order to enhance the event,” said Ebeling. 

Graduating seniors are raising concerns on how the event will turn out. Some students are predicting chaos. 

Samantha Chavarin, a psychology major, said, “Now that there isn’t a limit for people, students are going to invite their whole families, which might not give my family the chance to see me graduate.” 

Chavarin finished her degree requirements in December, but plans to participate in the spring commencement because there is no fall ceremony. 

“This new rule makes me reconsider this whole walking for graduation thing completely,” said Chavarin. 

Students are concerned others will invite too many guests. Contrarily, some students find eliminating tickets to be a great idea because they want to share their graduation with those who have supported them on their academic journeys. 

Anais Gutierrez, a biology major who is graduating this spring, said, “I will be thrilled to have my whole family watch me graduate.”

This will be the third year CSUB hosts its commencement ceremony on the main soccer field. Previously it had been held in the Outdoor Amphitheater, located near the Stockdale Highway entrances to the university. During that time, there were two ceremonies, on Friday and Saturday, to better accommodate all graduates and their guests. Only six tickets were issued, with two more released later depending on how many were left.

Lorena Mendoza, who graduated in 2016 with a bachelors degree in Physical Education and Kinesiology, said that it was difficult for her and her boyfriend to have split ceremonies. Mendoza attended the 2018 commencement to watch her sister graduate. 

“I like that there was a huge screen to watch so we could see our graduate from anywhere,” said Mendoza.

Elizabeth Lewis also graduated from CSUB in 2016, the last year the ceremony was held in the Outdoor Amphitheater, with a degree in English. 

“The seating for guests wasn’t great but we got through the ceremony quickly,” said Lewis. “I didn’t agree with the decision to split ceremonies [because] there were friends who graduated that I didn’t get to see walk.”

In 2015, the Outdoor Amphitheater commencement cost $91,410.90 and increased the following year in 2016 to $97,949.16. After moving to the soccer field, the budget has gone up to $481,664 for the cost of both undergraduate and graduate ceremonies. This year, the graduate hooding ceremony will be held in the soccer field too, at 6 p.m. on May 22.

According to Harper, the graduation budget is approved like all other budgets from the university. A committee of about 30 CSUB members plan and decide how the ceremonies will be. The budget comes from both state funding and student fees.

This will also be Lynnette Zelezny’s first commencement ceremony as CSUB president. 

“Some of the things that I’m most excited about is that this will be a record year of the number of graduates, both undergraduate and graduate students. I’m very proud of that,” said Zelezny. 

According to Zelezny, a lot of details are happening behind the scenes to give graduation a special touch. 

“One of the most important things of this is recognizing each student by name, and I think for the large number of underrepresented students and first generation students, it’s important for their families to be part of that recognition,” said Zelezny.

Zelezny said that the university wants the ceremony to keep the program very celebratory but not too long because of the high temperature weather. In the past, the ceremonies have lasted approximately two and a half hours. 

Harper also added that the reason commencement is held in the morning is to “avoid the sun.”   

Sunrise is predicted for 5:46 a.m. on May 24, 2019 and the average high temperature in Bakersfield is 86 degrees, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Some students asked why CSUB does not hold commencement in the Rabobank Arena. According to Ebling, the Rabobank Arena only has 9,000 seats, while the soccer field can hold 11,500 seats along with the Icardo Center holding 3,200 seats. The move from the Outdoor Amphitheater to the soccer field would allow more guests and eliminate the double ceremonies. 

“We’ve looked into it and there can be more guests in the soccer field,” said Ebeling. 

Another major concern is how will disabled guests be accommodated. Ebeling said there has never been an issue with accommodating people with disabilities and mentioned that the commencement registration survey asks students if they require accommodations for guests with disabilities. 

“There is space dedicated for people with disabilities and we always make sure we have at least the minimum amount from registration surveys,” said Ebeling. 

Ebeling gave personal tips to graduates, hoping to ease the process for them. 

“Check the list of restrictions on the CSUB commencement website and share it with your families,” said Ebeling. 

Refraining guests from bringing restricted items will make sure they do not lose time and can find seating. Items such as signs, umbrellas, and balloons will all be prohibited.  

“Check your email weekly after Gradfest and share the information with your families so they are prepared,” said Ebeling. 

Students can see the latest commencement updates on csub.edu/commencement.