Schools Change Policies for Participants in Commencement

As graduation looms only two months away, many students who were planning to walk down the aisle during commencement ceremonies this June were shocked to learn that they will have to wait until next year.
In the middle of April an e-mail was sent to students in the School of Social Sciences and School of Humanities stating, ‘Only students who have graduated fall 2003 and winter 2004 or have applied for spring 2004 and summer 2004 are eligible to participate in this year’s commencement ceremony.’
This new policy automatically excludes anyone who was planning on completing their coursework in fall 2004 and walking in June. Previously, it had been understood that students were allowed to walk during any graduation. The only stipulation was that only those who completed their coursework by the summer following graduation would have their names printed in the commencement program.
Caesar Sereseres, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the School of Social Sciences, explained that the new policy was implemented this year due to a lack of space.
‘The problem has been that the number of students, both those who actually can graduate and those who wanted to graduate, has continued to grow to a very large number,’ Sereseres said.
According to Bernadette Strobel-Lopez, director of the commencement ceremonies, the expected number of graduates for the School of Social Sciences this June is around 1,550 students.
However, despite the limited amount of space, Sereseres is willing to allow students who were excluded to participate in commencement ceremonies on a case-by-case basis.
‘I’m not saying that there aren’t exceptions,’ Sereseres said. ‘There are some individuals who would have graduated in the spring but because they’re going to EAP or UCDC and go out of the area, they’re going to be delayed a quarter so we’ve made some exceptions. I’m not going to say [the policy] is iron-clad.’
Officials from the School of Humanities declined to comment on exactly why they decided to implement the new policy. As opposed to the School of Social Sciences, the School of Humanities has not been so understanding with its students.
When fourth-year English major Ljiljana Pavlovic realized that she would not be allowed to graduate as planned, she found an unsympathetic ear when talking to School of Humanities undergraduate counselor Carol Thompson.
‘[Thompson] just looked at me like ‘That’s your problem,” Pavlovic said. ‘I was previously told by the counseling office that you can walk in June if you’re done by fall.’
Pavlovic said she never received any notice from the school explaining the policy change.
‘I heard from a friend who heard from a friend,’ Pavlovic said. ‘I applied for graduation, I bought my cap and gown, I took my senior portraits, I invited my family … how are you supposed to un-invite your family to your college graduation?’
Declining to comment further, Thompson stated in an e-mail, ‘We are referring all questions regarding this year’s ceremony to Bernadette Stroble-Lopez, director of the Bren Events Center and a member of the commencement committee.’
However, according to Strobel-Lopez, each school is individually responsible for implementing the new policy and deciding whether exceptions can be made.
‘This policy is set by the University Registrar’s Office. Enforcement is the responsibility of the academic unit,’ Strobel-Lopez said.
When asked if he felt that students were given ample time to make arrangements regarding the new policy, Sereseres admitted that many were not.
‘I’m sure it probably didn’t [give enough time] in some cases,’ Sereseres said. ‘All we’re trying to do with this policy and with these guidelines is to simply say that if you are actually going to graduate … you’re going to get priority.’