Yesterday, USD released a statement via email announcing they would no longer hold a winter commencement ceremony, which means students set to graduate in December now must wait to walk at graduation until May.
In their email, USD cited the reason for this change as, “…improv[ing] the commencement experience for students and their families.” While this change may increase socialization and decrease costs, this change is little more than a nuisance for students – and in some cases, may crush the dreams some alumni have for themselves.
Yesterday, a good friend of mine told me that she now has to decide between her spring wedding and walking at her own commencement. As a first-generation college student, her graduation is one of the most important events her family has celebrated for decades. If her father can’t switch his vacation time to May, instead of December as he had planned, he won’t be able to watch his own daughter’s graduation. But if he chooses the graduation, he can’t attend her wedding. Which is a parent supposed to pick?
Many relatives plan months, even years, in advance to travel for graduation ceremonies, because many students’ loved ones aren’t from South Dakota – or even from the United States. Some have family that visit from the other side of the world.
And for even more still, their families may have financial restrictions and cultural barriers that they may have carefully budgeted and prepared for – and now have little more to do than hope that things will work out.
Students that graduate in winter must now wait half a year to officially celebrate. Many alumni leave the Vermillion area, causing them to now take time out of their hard-earned careers, time building a family and other obligations to travel back to USD to celebrate for one day.
My friend was told she could walk in May 2019 instead of May 2018, but that would make her a “sitting duck” for another year.
USD should’ve given at least one year’s warning for students to prepare. Graduation isn’t a moment celebrated on a whim and can be stressful to plan.
With only eight months to go, families are now being forced to rapidly shift their schedules and potentially prioritize one major life event for another – or even risk their careers to attend the spring ceremony.
One reason for this change may be that USD is trying to cut costs. But what’s more important to a university than graduation and making those ceremonies as accessible to students and their loved ones as possible?
For many families, especially those from lower socioeconomic classes who may not often be able to afford higher education, these events are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Commencement is an opportunity best celebrated immediately after official graduation. By holding a winter commencement, students are afforded the choice to decide what works best for them, rather than be pigeon-holed into a time slot that may be difficult or even impossible to reach. USD should strive to me more thoughtful and inclusive of varying schedules, or else students and families pay the price.
Street is involved in Spectrum: Gender and Sexuality Alliance, Care for Critters and APES.