Cal Poly commencement. Credit: File / Mustang News

Graduation is full of mixed emotions. You’re excited for a new start, you’re relieved to have finished the turbulent four years that it took for you to get here, but you’re also sad to be leaving your friends, professors and youth behind. No matter how you feel about graduating, the commencement ceremony is something to look forward to.

I remember during WOW, sitting in Spanos Stadium thinking about how in a few short years I would be getting my diploma in that very stadium. Now I’m only six months away from that day, and I’m both excited and terrified. Commencement will be a great time to just celebrate with my family and friends. Unfortunately, commencement will become less impactful for so many students.

On Jan. 11, soon-to-be graduates received an email from Cal Poly announcing that they would no longer hold a fall commencement ceremony starting in the 2023-24 school year. Meaning the most recent fall ceremony was Cal Poly’s last. 

“The elimination of fall commencement allows all graduates to enjoy an equitable graduation experience, including participation in Cultural Commencement ceremonies and college and department celebrations, all of which only take place in spring quarter,” the Commencement Office wrote to students via email.

Going forward, if you finish your degree during fall quarter you will have to wait till spring Commencement to celebrate. While I’m personally graduating in spring I see this as a huge let down for students that are finishing their degree in the fall. 

The traditional four-year college path is not realistic anymore. Many students need an extra quarter to finish up their degree and take classes they previously weren’t able to. As a transfer student I know many transfers that don’t plan on graduating until the fall. As a  transfer, I had to have a packed schedule every quarter to make sure I stayed on track. 

This just isn’t feasible for many students who work or aren’t able to do a full load every quarter. Also, some transfers may wish to extend their time at Cal Poly instead of just the two years we’re supposed to be here; this is understandable considering many of us spent a year and half of our college experience online. 

To be fair, when you look at the numbers it’s easy to understand why they’re putting a stop to the ceremony. 

According to Cal Poly spokesperson Matt Lazier, on average only 58% of those eligible to attend fall commencement actually do attend. In comparison, 88% of eligible graduates attend the spring ceremony. 19% of fall graduates actually choose to just attend the spring commencement ceremony. 

However, not having the option to attend a commencement celebration for fall graduates will leave many feeling like their college experience is unfinished, yes they get to attend the ceremony in spring, but that is nearly seven months after they completed their course work. Most students will already have jobs and live in another city by the time June comes around. 

Sure, they can travel back to San Luis Obispo if they wish to, but finding lodging for graduation is already hard enough. For those already with jobs, it may be difficult to take the time off to come travel back to town for commencement. They would have to take additional time off work to participate in Cultural Commencement ceremonies and college and department celebrations.

It’s no secret that fall commencement isn’t as big as spring commencement, yet the solution shouldn’t be to remove the celebration altogether. The solution should be to make fall commencement more impactful so that graduates can leave Cal Poly with a sense of closure and not have to spend money and time coming back to campus in the spring. 

Why aren’t Cultural Commencement ceremonies and college and department celebrations held in the fall? Why don’t we take time to celebrate fall graduates like we do spring graduates?

The traditional four year path is going obsolete. Graduates should be celebrated when they finally press submit on that last assignment. No matter what time of year they finish their coursework, no matter how many times they changed their major and no matter how many years it took to get there; everyone deserves a fabulous celebration.