By Maya Page & Cassandra Gilbert
Students came across an announcement posted on the FDU website stating new changes to the 2019 May Commencement ceremony. This sparked ongoing debate and confusion with students, parents, and faculty.
The message stated, “The University is pleased to announce exciting changes this year for Commencement, designed to enhance the overall graduation experience for our student and their families. The most notable change is that during the graduation ceremony at MetLife Stadium, graduates will not be processing across the stage to have their names read.”
Instead of having names read at MetLife as FDU has done in the past, students will now travel back to their home campuses, (Metro or Florham) and have private ceremonies with their schools.
Senior Zariel Burch expressed her frustration with the changes and took to social media to start a petition on change.org. The petition was shared all over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, being reposted by thousands of upset students.
“This notion should also prove how important graduation is to us and how appreciative we will be for the chance to walk across that stage. Class of 2019 want to be recognized and walk across the stage at MetLife Stadium,” Burch wrote in her petition.
The petition grew attention from students and families, gathering more than 4,000 signatures. Some of the main reasons for student and parent signatures are:
The lack of communication between administration and staff. The University posted this announcement on the website without informing upcoming graduates personally with an e-mail. Students felt left out of this major decision. From the wording of the announcement it did not sound like a possibly, rather a set in stone plan.
Also, students expressed their annoyance with having to travel around New Jersey on a day that is supposed to be relax and joyful. The traffic coming out of MetLife after the ceremony would cause chaos and confusion, wasting time on a day that is supposed to be special.
Parent Sandy Buccine commented on the petition, “My daughter is a sophomore at FDU….. if this most pivotal and meaningful Graduation Tradition is no longer Celebrated, I as a parent, would be outraged. Taking away Tradition to accommodate ill mannered people is Not the answer. I am confident that the students voices will be heard and respected, and a more reasonable solution executed!”
The class of 2019 also communicated the unfairness of the situation. Graduates feel they should not be punished due to the past transgressions of another class. The decision to cut names out of the ceremony was made in order to cut down the length of graduation. In the 2018 commencement, all the students who were called first ended up leaving after their names were called. By the time the students in the back were called, half the stadium was gone.
There is also a concern on where students would fit on each of their campuses. There is no where big enough on either campus to hold the number of students and families that are attending graduation. This would mean that graduates would most likely only get a certain number of tickets for friends/family to attend. If the ceremony was at MetLife, students could invite any number of people.
President Christopher Capuano wants to ensure students that their concerns are being heard. Capuano told The Equinox, “We greatly appreciate the interest and passion the students have shown regarding the 2019 Commencement ceremony. Commencement is first and foremost about the graduates so we want to hear their concerns and take their input into consideration as we try to plan the best ceremony possible.”
Although the statement published online seemed like a finalized plan, Capuano included, “We want to hear as many voices as possible. I can assure you that no decision has yet been finalized.”
SGA on both campuses has arranged a town hall with President Capuano and University Provost Gillian Small to discuss student apprehensions.
“One message that seems particularly strong so far is that students want their names read at the ceremony at MetLife Stadium. This is my preference as well but we need to know that graduates will stay for all the names to be read, not just their own. In the past, many have left once their names have been read,” Capuano said. “This is disrespectful and unfair to those who haven’t been called yet. We do not want this to happen again. If we can get a commitment from the graduates that they will stay for the entire ceremony, we can set a standard for future classes to follow and have a very memorable University-wide celebration.”