FOGEL: Choose option three
Moving final exercises to Scott Stadium is the best solution to the graduation dilemma
Wednesday, surveys were released to gauge student opinions regarding the University’s final exercises for the coming years. The surveys focus on the Class of 2015 and 2016 graduation ceremonies, which will both occur alongside the Rotunda renovations. But they also bring up the more pressing topic of how the University will respond to the challenging task of fitting growing graduating class sizes on the Lawn. The most advantageous solution for the short-term and potentially the long-term is to move final exercises to Scott Stadium.
In her letter to students, President Sullivan presents three options: keep all graduates on the Lawn, split the ceremonies into two days or move the ceremonies to Scott Stadium. I’ll begin with the first. For the Class of 2015 and possibly 2016, option one would allocate only two guest tickets to each student as well as no-standing room area (this number rises to three tickets, the current quota, if the Rotunda renovations are completed in time). My immediate qualms are that the first option would result in extended family and siblings being absent from the ceremonies. Instead, grandparents, brothers, sisters or maybe even friends would be forced to watch the ceremony from “remote viewing sites across Grounds,” whereas now they are typically able to watch from the standing room near the Rotunda.
According to The Cavalier Daily’s recent “Where will you graduate?” article, the first proposal “will take more than double the amount of time” with the ceremony lasting “an estimated three and a half hours or longer.” This is due to procession changes in accordance with Rotunda renovations. As much as students want to cherish the last moments they have when they graduate, an hour or more increase to the procession would no doubt bore both students and guests who wish to spend their time celebrating with family and friends.
Although the second option would handle the guest situation better, it also splits the graduating class in half. I realize that this is the point of this particular proposal; however, it would mean that many students will not be graduating alongside friends they’ve spent the last four years with. Moreover, it wouldn’t solve the problem of potentially overcrowded valedictory exercises, which would be moved to Friday of the ceremony weekend. If there were to be another keynote speaker as renowned as Peyton Manning speaking for the Class of 2015, it could be much more difficult to regulate seating.
Option three solves the problems the other two options cannot by keeping the graduating class together while also retaining plentiful guest seating. Students can not only invite as many guests as they please to join them for this special day, but all guests can also sit together. This differs from the current system in which the three guests with tickets are separated from the standing room guests. Additional benefits include “restrooms rather than port-a-johns,” more “easily accessible” concessions, and “better accommodations for guests with wheelchairs.”
Of course, the most common objection to this option is tradition, one of the most important values here at the University. On the other hand, with clear space issues during the Rotunda’s renovation, at what point does practicality take precedent over tradition? For example, the Honor System is one of the University’s greatest traditions, yet it is shaped everyday by the changing times and situations that each new year presents. Much like the Honor System must undergo change, so too must Final Exercises, in order to accommodate the Rotunda renovation next year and growing numbers in the future. This option presents the opportunity to start a new tradition, and the class of 2015 would be the first class to have their graduation ceremony at Scott Stadium while still retaining the tradition of walking across the Lawn.
Most importantly, moving the graduation ceremony to Scott Stadium offers a trial run for potential future use. President Sullivan, in her letter to students, states that one of the two issues shaping plans for finals weekend in coming years is the “growing numbers of people who attend Final Exercises.” This number will continue to climb as long as the graduating class numbers keep rising as well. Simply from the transition from the 2012-2013 academic year to the current one, there has been a rise in student enrollment from around 14,600 undergraduate students to over 16,000 students. This means that even after Rotunda restoration is complete, there will still be the persisting predicament of how to accommodate the increasing numbers of students and their guests. With its massive guest seating, Scott Stadium offers both a short-term and long-term solution for the University.
Jared Fogel is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.