Miscommunication about department commencement ceremonies in the last week led to student uproar and the creation of a petition, which has gained traffic across social media.
Architectural design senior Kendra Gartrell created the petition, titled “Bring Back the Department Ceremonies!” after realizing not every department would be hosting a smaller commencement celebration. Gartrell originally thought the administration was behind the cancellation of department-specific ceremonies.
“I realized many people, even from other departments, didn’t know that their department may not be holding a department commencement ceremony,” Gartrell said. “It is our hope from here that students who signed or heard of the petition were able to bring their concerns to their department, if they weren’t having a department ceremony, and still have time to have their voices heard and concerns met.”
However, according to university spokesperson Matt Lazier, department ceremonies are untouched by the university as a whole. Gartrell’s petition, which was created on Feb. 22 and had more than 1,000 signatures by Feb. 23, was “misinformed,” he said.
Departments have the liberty to decide whether or not they will host an additional celebration, Lazier said. What’s more, the main ceremony will now feature individual name readings, which has not happened in the past.
“While the main ceremony will now include individual name readings, (which is) something new, college and department ceremonies will take place after the main ceremonies, as usual,” Lazier said. “There have been no mandates from the university to the departments. Individual departments have always been and continue to be free to hold any kind of pre- or post-commencement gathering they choose.”
But not all colleges will be holding a reception for all departments, Lazier said.
“There are 45 events or receptions planned pre- or post-commencement right now, but those actually represent 59 separate departments,” Lazier said. “A couple colleges are combining all of their departments into college-wide receptions.”
Still, some students — like dairy science senior Davis Neary — were upset that students were not involved in the decision-making process.
“I come from a department where we’re lucky if we have 20 students graduate every year,” Neary said. “It’s become a tradition where we have our professors pass out our stuff with fun banter and recollections of our four years at Poly. What frustrates me with this big commencement becoming even bigger, and the after receptions becoming even smaller, I feel like it’s going to kill all these special traditions that we have.”
Landscape architecture senior Melanie Buffa said she felt the same way.
“In the landscape architecture department, we spend a lot of time with our professors working on quarter-long projects and our studios have really bonded,” Buffa said. “I would rather have my professor who knows what I’ve achieved shake my hand at my graduation rather than a dean or professor — I don’t know. The department ceremonies are intimate and familiar and it would be a shame to lose that aspect of graduation.”
The online petition now includes an update clarifying the situation.