I received this letter from GSU student Kiana Nicholas, a film/video and journalism/public relations double major. Proving that she has learned something about effective PR, Kiana is taking her disagreement with Georgia State University to the public square. (She is president of the Public Relations Student Society of America. )
Her issue: She will graduate in the fall, and Georgia State has decided against a college-wide commencement ceremony for students graduating mid-year. Instead, fall 2012 graduates will have to wait and walk with spring 2013 grads in a joint ceremony. (Students will still graduate; it is the commencement that is delayed.)
A Georgia State spokeswoman told me this morning that the university’s goal was to raise the profile and fanfare of the spring event. The school is also hamstrung because it has no facility large enough for a commencement crowd so it had been forced to secure massive venues for ceremonies twice a year, not an easy task in downtown Atlanta.
The official statement from GSU is:
The decision to go to one commencement ceremony was given significant consideration. It is our sincere hope that the plan will make our spring commencement an even bigger and more exciting affair. Our commencement office is currently reaching out to students who will be affected by the change and offering them alternative solutions.
Degrees will continue to be conferred three times during an academic year. The academic colleges hold individual convocations prior to the end of a term for their degree candidates, which most students prefer to attend. The college ceremonies are more personalized and intimate, with students celebrating with other students in their academic discipline and with faculty and staff from their college.
As someone who didn’t attend her college or grad school commencements, I am probably in the minority here. I have little enthusiasm for the pomp and circumstance of stadium-size gatherings. This decision would not faze me. But I know that many graduates love the commencement extravaganza and invite dozens of relatives.
Is it fair to ask GSU grads to wait five months since many of them may be elsewhere by then and miss the big event?
Here is Kiana’s letter:
Did you hear that Georgia State University has cancelled its fall commencement ceremonies? This has left thousands of future fall graduates like me without a proper graduation ceremony celebrating his or her four years of success. And how did students find out: a message on the commencement website and a story by WSB-TV.
Students, parents and even alumni cannot believe it and are outraged by the university’s decision and secrecy. According to WSB-TV, university officials refused to comment fully, only saying that the decision was because of the difficulty of scheduling a ceremony around the Falcons football schedule at the dome (and the subsequent $500,000 price tag). But aren’t the fall ceremonies held on Wednesdays?
And isn’t Atlanta filled with alternative, less expensive venues? Even the GSU Sports Arena can hold 3,500 plus in the stands and even more when you count the floor (which I read in an AJC article)!
After four years or more of paying almost $8,000 a semester in tuition, housing, fees and more, students are absolutely entitled to a graduation ceremony and should not be forced to wait five months to walk. Do you know where you will be five months from now?
Students can easily be out-of-state or even the country (just ask the international students). Besides providing a quality education, a commencement ceremony should be at the top of any university’s priority list. Just ask UGA, Georgia Tech and any other Georgia university which offers Fall, Spring and even Summer commencement ceremonies.
With over 33,000 students attending Georgia State University, it is hard to imagine having one commencement. The university says that students can go to the individual college convocation instead. There is no comparison between the two. One is small, not as formal and not as memorable. The other brings together all students, faculty, alumni and university to celebrate years of hard work and accomplishment. All students want is a commencement where the president and university leaders stand on the stage, look at each student in his or her cap and gown, and say “thank you” and “congratulations for all your hard work and success.”
This is especially true for Fall 2012 graduates. When we entered school in 2008-09, it was right before the economic downturn and the recession that rocked this nation to its core. Throughout the years, fall 2012 graduates saw parents lose their jobs, tuition and fees increase and fewer courses offered. We even saw friends drop out left and right due to the financial hardship.
However, we did not waver. We continued with our education and are less than a year away from earning our degrees. Instead of looking forward to receiving our diplomas and celebrating our accomplishments, our university informs us that we will not have a commencement; that the university will not bring all graduates together and recognize our achievements.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog