CHELLMAN: Don’t sell extra graduation tickets

Selling extra tickets commodifies a priceless milestone and misses an important opportunity to make our University more equitable and inclusive

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For weeks, members of the Class of 2018 have been buying and selling extra graduation tickets on our class Facebook page.

Courtesy University of Virginia

Graduation is stressful. Graduates have a million things to remember, from booking hotels for our families to making dinner reservations, picking up our caps and gowns and checking that we’ve met all our academic requirements. In the insanity of our last few months at the University, it’s often easier not to question the way things have been done before or the way things are being done this year. But when it comes to the issue of selling off extra graduation tickets, we owe it to ourselves and our University to question what has been done in the past. No one who has criticized elitism at the University or cared at all about making these Grounds more equitable and accessible should feel comfortable charging money for graduation tickets. If you are fortunate enough to have extra graduation tickets, please give them away, and give a fellow student the gift of having an extra loved one watch them wear the honors of Honor.

For weeks, members of the Class of 2018 have been buying and selling extra graduation tickets on our class Facebook page. On the surface, selling tickets makes sense. Many students do not need all six Final Exercises tickets provided by the Office of Major Events, and, many other students would like to bring more than six loved ones to watch them walk the Lawn and graduate from the University. Initially, it seems logical for enterprising students with a supply of tickets to benefit from their products’ high demand by charging money to give tickets away. However, graduation should be different.

Last week, fourth-year Joey Michel called on fellow members of the Class of 2018 Facebook group to stop selling tickets and to start giving them away. He makes an important point, and it’s one that I think boils down to that question of supply and demand. There are two ways to look at the situation. 

The first is to realize that there cannot be a high demand for the graduation ticket “product” because there is no real “product” at all. Fourth-year students have done nothing to earn or produce the six graduation tickets they’ve been issued. And they’ve done nothing to earn or devise the number of their loved ones available to attend Final Exercises. How can we claim extra tickets as a product which we have the right to sell when they are not really ours at all?

A second perspective on the “market” for graduation tickets perhaps addresses the issue more appropriately. Let’s assume there is a product which we have the right to sell. What exactly should we call that product? We’re selling graduation tickets, yes, but that really means we’re selling something inherently priceless. We’re selling a family the opportunity to be with their child on a day for which they’ve worked for over two decades. We’re selling a child the opportunity to share their joy and pride and accomplishment with the people they love most in the world. We’re commodifying a person’s walk out into the world, auctioning off a moment into which families and students have poured so much of their time, energy, and resources to achieve. And if we’re selling these things, we’re also threatening to hold all that back. We’re seeing the vast web of significance into which our walk down the Lawn is woven. And we’re slicing through that web, or we’re threatening to without the proper monetary compensation.

I do not intend to condemn or shame those who have already sold or offered to sell extra graduation tickets. The precedent for selling extra tickets was established long before the Class of 2018, and many students do not have the privilege of turning down opportunities to make some extra money. Instead, we should condemn the precedent — stop selling tickets now if you can, and encourage those who will graduate after us to avoid the practice from the start. Many of us have spent our time at this University working to make it a better or more open or more inclusive place. Even more of us understand how much more work still needs to be done. As we leave so much of that work to the students of the future, we can prove our commitment to that work in one more way. Give away any extra graduation tickets you have, and open that last walk down the Lawn to as many of our loved ones as possible.

Jack Chellman is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com.

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