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Continued commencement confusion

| Monday, November 10, 2014

With construction around Notre Dame Stadium already begun, it’s difficult to imagine the 2015 commencement having a fighting chance to remain in the Stadium. The administration announced its relocation to Purcell Pavilion in August, and logistical organization is well underway.

By moving the location from the Stadium back to Purcell, students will no longer have unlimited seats for their families; instead, they are each granted only three tickets.

In a meeting with Chuck Hurley, Registrar of the University, and Dennis Brown, Assistant Vice President for University Communications and University Spokesperson, on Oct. 6, I shared more than 40 testimonies submitted to me from various seniors to demonstrate our frustrations about the recently changed commencement details. The early announcement in August shocked many and left most of us feeling angry about the lack of transparency in the decision-making process.

Going into this meeting, I set out to understand why construction on the Stadium would be halted for the 2015 football season but not for commencement weekend. It is without question that Our Lady profits incredibly on any given game-day weekend; therefore, I understood how influential football must be in many administrative decisions. The construction project would need to be planned and completed in phases that would honor the 2015, 2016 and 2017 football seasons’ presence on our campus. What I didn’t understand, though, was why they lacked the same concern and passion to keep our commencement in the stadium. As many seniors and I have discussed, we feel this decision undervalues our collective academic accomplishments when stacked against the tradition of Notre Dame football.

I learned they have been discussing these decisions since the spring, and although some student representatives were involved in the decision-making process, I reminded them the general student body was not made clearlyaware that Crossroads was potentially impacting commencement or that this discussion was even taking place. To demonstrate this, I distributed a survey to the Class of 2015 via Survey Monkey on the ND Students for Stadium Commencement Coalition Facebook page. Here are the following results as of Nov. 5:

Coming into the 2014-15 school year, 554 of 634 students were under the impression the 2015 commencement ceremony would be held in the stadium.

Prior to the University releasing information on Aug. 28 about the impact of Crossroads on the 2015 commencement, 527 students were unaware that the ceremony would have limited tickets available; 95 students were aware, and 12 answered N/A.

Prior to the University’s notification on Oct. 8 that tickets would be limited to three per student, 498 students invited more than three guests to the 2015 Commencement ceremony; 88 had not; 47 answered N/A.

Of 632 students, 275 had four to five family members planning to attend this ceremony; 223 had six or more family members; 98 had one to three members; 36 answered N/A.

Of 630 students who invited more than three guests to the ceremony, 507 were under the impression that they would be able to attend the ceremony; 25 were not, and 98 answered N/A.

Of the invited guests exceeding the three-ticket limit, 296 students answered they had already booked their flights and hotels; 205 had not, and 133 answered N/A.

On the black market for an extra commencement ceremony ticket, 344 students answered they would be willing to pay less than $100; 116 would pay between $100-$200; 31 would pay more than $200; 140 answered N/A.

These results suggest many students were unaware of changing commencement decisions. This lack of transparency and consideration for families making commencement weekend plans is not only unacceptable but will consequently create a situation in which more financially capable families can increase their ceremony attendance. It burdens families who have already made travel plans and forces students to select which three members can share in the special moment with them. Fr. Jenkins stated in the Observer article “May commencement to be held in stadium” dated Oct. 8, 2009 that the 2010 commencement ceremony was decidedly moved to the stadium because reducing guest seating was “an unacceptable course of action. … Rather than limit the number of tickets available, forcing families to choose which grandparents and siblings can attend, we want to welcome everyone to share in this proud moment.” If that’s the case, shouldn’t the administration be doing more to protect this commencement location, or does it pale in comparison to the football season’s importance?

As Brown explained, there are “plenty of alternatives to host commencement, as in previous years.” To be sure, the 18 other diploma ceremonies with unlimited seating would be amazing enough to supplant the experience our families could have together in the Stadium. Besides, they can be separated to view the event on projector screens across campus as well as broadcasted on local television. The only thing that matters is that they see it, right?

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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