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Construction to force Commencement indoors

| Friday, August 29, 2014

As a result of construction on Notre Dame Stadium related to the Campus Crossroads Project, the 2015 University Commencement Ceremony will be held in the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center (JACC), University Registrar Chuck Hurley said in an email to the student body Thursday.

“After five years in Notre Dame Stadium, the ceremony will return temporarily to the location that was used from 1969 to 2009.  The 18 diploma ceremonies that take place on commencement weekend will continue at their current times and locations,” the email stated. “An Ad Hoc Commencement Ceremony Committee led by the Office of the Registrar and composed of students, faculty and staff was formed last spring to explore site alternatives for Notre Dame’s commencement exercises in light of the Crossroads project.  After considering several locations, the committee recommended moving the May University Commencement Ceremony back to Purcell Pavilion while Crossroads is under construction.”

The email also stated the Commencement ceremony will be a ticketed event with limited seating. Senior Stephanie Wachs said the venue change disappointed her because of Purcell Pavilion’s smaller capacity.

“For me, I could care less what the venue is,” she said. “I don’t care that it’s not in the stadium, I just care that we won’t have the capacity of the stadium. I am pretty sure each student will get two tickets, and that means my sister won’t be able to see me graduate, which makes me extremely sad. Yes, she’ll be able to see me get my diploma, but that will be with about forty other kids in a room in Hayes-Healy. No President’s address, no Valedictorian speech, or Commencement speaker. She won’t get to see most of the things that make graduation graduation, and that’s really disappointing.”

There was no limit on tickets when the Commencement ceremony was held in Notre Dame Stadium. Purcell Pavilion seats 9,149, and Notre Dame conferred 2,269 diplomas in May 2014, meaning each student could be allotted up to four tickets only if no seats in the arena are assigned to graduates, faculty or administrators.

The venue change also contradicted the class of 2015’s expectations, Wachs said.

“The disappointment and disbelief is also because they originally said it wouldn’t affect commencement and now it is, which is pretty hurtful to the seniors in my opinion,” she said. “Honestly, it doesn’t change my opinion of the [Campus Crossroads] project much; I haven’t been following it closely because I know I won’t be able to use the facilities. Part of me feels like they could be doing more or making some exceptions to have Commencement still in the stadium, but they’re not for whatever reason. I, of course, don’t know all that went into the decision, but it’s definitely disappointing and kind of hurtful to our class as a whole.”

Senior Ellen Yokum said when the Campus Crossroads construction project was announced, she was concerned the class of 2015 would not be able to graduate in Notre Dame Stadium.

“Upon hearing the official news that the Commencement ceremony would be moved due to construction, I was fairly upset to have these fears confirmed,” she said. “[Notre Dame Stadium] holds a special place in many of our hearts and is a symbol of both the work and play that have defined our time at Notre Dame. The fact that our class will not have the opportunity to graduate in the stadium is a disappointment to myself and many members of the class of 2015.”

Yokum, who has several members of her family planning on attending her graduation, said she is concerned that not all of them will be able to attend the Commencement ceremony in the Purcell Pavilion.

“Graduating in the stadium would have allowed at least the majority of these family members to take part in the ceremony itself,” she said.  “With limited seating available in the JACC, I doubt that many of them will be present for the conferring of diplomas.”

Yokum said that she has heard a variety of opinions from her classmates at the change in venue.

“Many people have expressed that they are upset about the change because they have been looking forward to graduating in the stadium,” she said. “Others, while still dismayed, understand that the change of venue is a necessary side effect of the Campus Crossroads Project.”

Some seniors are looking on the positive side of this news, Yokum said, as graduation in the Purcell Pavilion is not subject to the weather.

“Weather conditions play a huge part in the graduation experience when it is held outdoors in the stadium,” she said. “At my sister’s graduation in 2012, extremely high temperatures made it pretty miserable to watch the ceremony. Some students were even removing their gowns because it was too hot to keep them on.”

Senior Alex Cantrell said he was impressed when he attended the Commencement ceremony in the stadium two years ago.

“I thought it was very special how the seniors got to walk down the tunnel onto the field to graduate,” he said.  “While I was looking forward to it being in the stadium, I understand the decision that was made, and I believe that graduation in the Purcell Pavilion will be just as special.”

Senior Elena Brindley said the news disheartened her because she looked forward to sharing her graduation experience with her whole family.

“My first reaction was definitely disappointment because I had always dreamed of that day in the stadium, but more important because with limited ticketing, I’m really upset my whole family may not be able to go. I think that our entire families all deserve that moment as much as we do,” she said.

Senior Hilary Johnson said she was also disappointed with the change.

“The stadium is the location on campus where the majority of our significant events occur,” Johnson said. “Therefore, I was very disappointed to hear that the class of 2015 would not be fortunate enough to be like years of … Notre Dame grads and graduate in the stadium. My only hope is that they don’t limit the number of seats for our families.”

Senior Arturo Chiquito said he was not upset by the change in venue.

“It’s not an established tradition, which is why I’m not bothered by it, that we’re not having it [in the stadium],” Chiquito said. “It’s only been for like the last five years, so I was bummed out or kind of disappointed about it when it was first announced but … I’m fine with it. We’re still graduating.”

Chiquito said he was also not concerned with the Commencement ceremony becoming a ticketed event.

“I’m fine as long as I have my parents and my sisters and maybe my grandma there. I don’t know how many tickets were for the stadium,” he said. “But as long as I have them there, I’m good. I wouldn’t want to be struggling to try to get tickets from others and I know that … I have family who is coming from Chicago, but they’d understand.”

Despite the initial letdown, senior Mikaela Prego said she remains confident the University will create a complete Commencement experience.

“My initial reaction was disappointment because I think it is a very unique experience to graduate together in the stadium where we spend so much of our fall and expend so many of our emotions,” Prego said. “I would have hoped that the senior student body would be more involved in the decision-making process, and the announcement did come as a surprise. That being said, I trust the university will put together a beautiful ceremony no matter the location.”

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About Catherine Owers

Senior News Writer Catherine Owers is a senior from New Orleans, Louisiana. She is studying English and Theology.

Contact Catherine