As commencement nears, graduating CSULB students express frustration at the university’s handling of the event

May. 10, 2022 / By

The sign at CSULB's entrance that spells the school's full name.

Image courtesy of CSULB.

 

Joy Rowden was excited to study on campus again for her senior year at California State University, Long Beach. After spending the last two years attending classes remotely, the 22-year-old was happy to see people walking around campus during the fall 2021 semester and thrilled for the chance to meet new people and interact with her professors. She was even more excited about having a less restrictive commencement ceremony come May. 

But in January 2022, that excitement was punctured when the college announced on Instagram that students will not be able to walk across the stage or hear their names read aloud during the ceremony. According to the university’s commencement website, graduates will be expected to remain seated during the two-hour ceremony and then will have the opportunity to walk across mini-stages and hear their names be called before and after the event.

It might seem like a small thing, but after two years of a pandemic, for Rowden and lots of her fellow seniors, this was frustrating.

“We don’t care about speeches,” Rowden said. ”What we want is to hear our names called and to walk across the stage. That’s such a rite of passage. This will be the only college graduation I will have.”

“I was upset, downright pissed,” Gena Faranda, another graduating senior, said. “We aren’t getting any real recognition, no walking of the main stage and name announcing. My college journey has been going on for 11 years and I want my hard work to be recognized.”

The university is aware of the negative responses to its commencement plan announcement but it still plans to move forward with the original plan. 

Long Beach State recently sent an email to the graduating class asking them to complete a survey, allowing students to pick the type of ceremony they wanted.

The majority of the students who took part in the survey opted to have a graduation where they could walk across the stage and have their names be called, according to the Long Beach Post. A statement by university President Jane Close Conoley said only 33% of all graduating seniors responded to the survey.

12,000 graduates are expected to graduate this May, according to the university president. 

However, Conoley said in an email to students, that because of the cost, staffing issues, and other reasons, the commencement plans won’t change.

The university also announced plans to have a winter commencement ceremony that would include stage walking and name-calling for students that weren’t happy with the spring commencement plans, according to The Daily 49er. However, those plans were canceled, according to the same outlet, because of staffing shortages and other events taking place during the same time.

 

A student looks up smiling, with a dog kneeling with her and a sign asking students how they feel about the commencement set up behind them.

Gena Faranda is one of the numerous students who decided to use Week of Welcome as an opportunity to educate their peers about the commencement ceremony. Photo courtesy of Gena Faranda.

 

“I’m disappointed in the campus. It doesn’t make sense to me to have in-person classes and not a better graduation to show my hard work these past 5 years,” Kenneth Ramirez, a 2022 graduate, said. 

Long Beach State students, including Rowden, created a petition for the university to change its commencement ceremony. 

Rowden said this idea stemmed from a group chat created by some seniors who wanted to combat the administration’s decision.  

As of this publication, the petition had garnered over 7,000 signatures with an end goal of reaching 10,000.

The petition has been circulated rapidly. Rowden, who has over 1,000 followers on Instagram, shared the link to the petition on the site. Additionally, it was shared on a private Facebook group for students at the school that has over 6,400 members.

Other California State universities have also announced plans for their spring commencements. Those universities are allowing graduates to walk across the stage while their names are being called.

Nine students shared during interviews and in a private Facebook group for the university that remote learning, which took place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, dampened their desire and motivation to finish out their studies. So when in-person classes resumed last fall, students started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, including Rowden. But now, CSULB students continue to express their dislike for the ceremony and the university’s actions of ignoring their requests on social media.

 

Instagram comments responding to a post from CSULB show students expressing their anger at the commencement ceremony announcement.

Comments from the Long Beach State Instagram post about the May commencement.

 

“We have had our college experience ripped away from us, but, despite all of that we have all been working really hard to graduate. So the last thing we need right now is to not have a regular graduation,” Rowden said.

As graduation approaches, one student won’t be attending the planned ceremony but will take advantage of the mini-stages that will be available before and after the ceremony.

“I owe this to my parents since they put me through college and I’ll be graduating with no student loans,” Faranda said.

After that, Faranda plans to go to dinner with friends and family to celebrate her accomplishments.

“I feel numb about going because a team of students and I fought hard to get some recognition and the school and president gave us promises that turned into empty promises in the end,” Faranda said.

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