Students Mad at Grad. Changes

After 20 years of a traditional one-day 12-hour graduation split between the Bren Events Center and Aldrich Park, UC Irvine commencement ceremonies will now take place exclusively in the Bren over three days and require tickets.
The decision has been controversial among students, who object to limiting the number of guests they are allowed to invite, but officials say that the new measures will lead to a more organized ceremony.
Starting this Monday, graduating students will gain access to a commencement registration Web site on which they can indicate if they plan on attending and the number of guests they will invite. On April 17, extra seats will be offered to the individual schools for students who would like to invite more people. This option is dependent on the availability of seating and there is no guarantee that extra guests will be accommodated.
The number of tickets allowed per student is determined by a set of data compiled over a three-year period by each school. An analysis of the data yielded information on the number of tickets to be distributed.
Students from each school have a specific time to begin reserving tickets. The first round of ticket orders begins on April 10. In order to be eligible for a possible second round, students must complete the first round of ticket reservations. Ticket limits range for different schools. Graduates from the School of Social Ecology, for example, will receive only four tickets, while graduates from the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences will receive 10 tickets.
Leslie Millerd Rogers, director of student affairs communications, explained the new procedures and the rationale behind the changes.
‘We’ve had a 20-year-old model that was created in 1984 when we graduated 2,229 graduates,’ Rogers said. ‘It’s now estimated that last year we awarded 6,400 degrees, so we’ve had a 189 percent increase in the number of degrees awarded. It’s a model that is 20 years old on a campus that is now booming. What drove [the changes] first and foremost was the safety and quality of the event.’
In previous years, UCI’s commencement ceremony has been subject to traffic and parking issues that have degraded the quality of the event, according to Rogers. By holding ceremonies simultaneously in Aldrich Park and the Bren, the flow of people was concentrated on East Peltason and Mesa Drive, both narrow streets not designed for heavy traffic.
By staggering the times and dates of the ceremonies, parking and traffic will be less burdensome for commencement staff participants, according to Rogers.
‘Our problem is that we only have a certain number of hours and limited facilities,’ Rogers said. ‘We literally become a one-way street on commencement day.’
Rogers assured that the dignity and intimacy of the ceremony was of the utmost importance to the commencement committee. ‘
We’re very proud of the fact that our graduation is about our students,’
Rogers said. ‘The university still wants it to be that way. These changes really are a way to give that moment of your name and now your face for everyone to see.’
Along with the addition of tickets and a new registration process, as students cross the graduation stage, their face will now be shown on a large screen in the Bren Events Center.
‘UCI is very proud that our graduation ceremonies are personalized for the students, with each one walking on stage, having their name read and hand shaken by a senior academic officer,’ Rogers said. ‘With the big screen, we are trying to add another dimension to the personal aspect.’
Rogers acknowledged that students may find the ticket limitation irritating, but offered alternatives to those with larger parties.
‘With every change, you have to adjust to the change,’ Rogers said. ‘We’re hoping that for students who might not be able to bring their 25 family and friends, they can watch it on the Web or go to their school’s reception. We’re hoping that those who do attend have a better quality experience.’
Juanita Andrews, a fifth-year Spanish major, was concerned about her family’s inability to participate in the ceremony.
‘At first I thought that the changes would be good because everyone will be able to see their students graduating and more people can enjoy the ceremony,’ Andrews said. ‘However, I’m going to be the first person in my family to graduate from a university, so this is a very important event for them. The ticket limitation doesn’t even cover my immediate family. I think [UCI] needs to consider how important this ceremony is for first-generation graduating students and their families. I’m glad they’re improving the ceremony, but I wish they would be more accommodating.’
Erik Jacome, a third-year East Asian languages and literature major, was concerned that the commencement changes would make the ceremony too formal.
‘I liked the open atmosphere of Aldrich Park and how it was accessible to everyone who wanted to support a graduate,’ Jacome said. ‘Now it feels like formality is more important than the person who is graduating, which is upsetting. It’s understandable that the event needs to be more organized, but I wish I could go to my friends’ ceremonies without having to get an invite.’