KELLY: Choose option two

Holding two separate ceremonies on the Lawn for Final Exercises is the best available option

Whatever graduation plan is chosen, one thing is certain: next year’s graduation is bound to be an interesting one. In considering which graduation plan is best, it is necessary to define what it is about the graduation experience that must be preserved. Obviously, the Lawn must continue to play a central role, if a somewhat altered one. Upon closer examination, however, I find that only the second option fulfills this goal. The first option, in limiting the number of guests to two, dismisses the right of parents and friends alike to participate in the ceremony. By concluding graduation in Scott Stadium, the third option unjustifiably removes the Lawn from the core of the experience.

Limiting the amount of guest tickets to two per graduate in 2015 (three per graduate in 2016, if the Rotunda construction proceeds apace) and eliminating standing room-only spaces seem to be the critical flaws of the first option. The experience of graduation should be witnessed and shared by all those who matter in one’s life. Granted, the level of value given to the presence of guests at graduation will significantly affect one’s preference, yet it would be safe to assume that many students will desire to have more than two guests on the Lawn. The value of that experience is immeasurable and should not be divested while other options remain plausible.

To that end, I admit that the second plan does not provide an adequate answer to the ticketing issue, as it also only allows three guest tickets per student. At a recent town hall hosted by the combined class councils, one student suggested the implementation of a ticket-sharing system. If such a plan could help to connect those who have tickets to give away with those who need extras, as intended, it would allow for increased attendance without creating further complications.

The physical restraints imposed by the Rotunda renovation will make graduating the entire University class at one place and time an arduous task. The first option, however, provides no practical means for reducing that strain. Insufficient space would increase the ceremony’s duration from approximately two hours to three and a half, or longer. Though theoretically feasible, a four-hour ceremony will impose serious discomfort.

The third option seems to resolve the issues of time and of guest attendance, but at a damaging price. As long as options keeping the graduation fully at the Lawn remain on the table, any option proposing to move the bulk of the ceremony elsewhere should receive more exacting scrutiny. Moving final exercises to Scott Stadium willingly would forfeit what has long been the defining aspect of a University graduation. Needless to say, the Lawn is what makes graduating from the University a unique experience. It is, therefore, quite shocking that the third option consigns the Lawn to a secondary status, making it a mere transitory feature of an otherwise conventional, stadium-packed graduation. On a personal note, graduating in a football stadium was not what I had in mind when I chose to attend the University.

Though supporters of the third option have pointed to the similar strategies of schools such as Yale, the University should seek to preserve the unique quality of its final exercises. The Lawn, therefore, must play as prominent a role as possible. To that end, the second option is most satisfactory. If the majority of students wish to keep final exercises fully on the Lawn, an assumption that I feel safe in making, then the choice is naturally restricted to the first and second options. As enticing as the prospect of unlimited guest tickets may be, a deliberate choice to hold most of the ceremony away from the Lawn surrenders a fundamental and distinctive aspect of a University graduation.

If a ticket-sharing system would actually allow students to have more guests on the Lawn, it would be more advantageous to choose the second option since it guarantees a shorter ceremony. Moreover, several universities extend graduation ceremonies over multiple days, including Notre Dame. Students have raised logistical challenges such as the separation of speakers and split departmental ceremonies. These concerns, however, seem unsubstantiated. The option’s effect on the speaker schedule is not yet clear, and divided departmental ceremonies would not occur if the entire College were to graduate in one day, as proposed.

On that note, students should be careful skimming over the comments made by Pamela Higgins, the Director of Major Events too quickly. A rapid read of a recent Cavalier Daily news article describing the options might lead one to believe there are two critical flaws with the second option. However, Higgins’ comments refer explicitly to a “similar idea” to split the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies, an initial proposal that is no longer on the table. The flaws she discussed would not apply to the second option as proposed.

Whatever your preference, take time to read through the options carefully and discuss them with friends and family alike; no matter what the outcome may be, we will all be affected.

Conor Kelly is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. His columns run Tuesdays.

Published April 18, 2014 in Opinion

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