Commencement Changes Spark Opposition Among Students, Faculty

By Kelly Andrews

INDIANA–Graduating IUP seniors will experience a different commencement ceremony this year. But some students and faculty are not happy about the change.

“Every student’s name will be called this year and will receive a specially designed diploma cover provided by the alumni association if they attend the university’s ceremony,” said Michelle Fryling, IUP media and public relations spokeswoman, in a March 25 interview.

“President Atwater wanted each student recognized in a formal way,” said Fryling. “He wants it to be more meaningful for students.”

Fryling said that during the annual December graduation ceremony each student’s name is called.

“There might not be as much musical entertainment as in the past,” said Fryling. “It will be longer but the estimated time will be 2-2 ½ hours long.”

But a two-hour ceremony seems lengthy to some students.

“I really don’t want to sit through it,” said Julie Markowski (senior, Hospitality Management) in a March 28 interview. “I don’t think that people’s grandparents should have to sit through a long ceremony either.”

The ceremony is scheduled to take place Saturday, May 10, at Miller Stadium. Students will begin lining up at 10 a.m. in the Zink parking lot, said Robert Simon, co-chair of the commencement committee in an April 4 phone interview.

Simon said that in case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved inside Memorial Field House. Each graduate will receive two guest tickets, and other family members and friends of the graduate will be able to watch the ceremony via circuit TV in other buildings such as Eberly Auditorium.

Some of the confusion concerning the changes to the ceremony involved the time of departmental ceremonies. Fryling said that no departmental ceremony is scheduled for the same time as the university-wide ceremony and that the confusion could have been the lack of communication.

“I think people hear the word change and think it’s a four-letter word around here,” said Fryling.

Markowski said the Hospitality Department hasn’t informed seniors whether a departmental ceremony will take place before the main ceremony. She and other seniors are upset over the matter, she added.

Some faculty members also are unhappy about the changes.

Journalism Department chair Randy Jesick co-signed a letter written by Theater and Dance chair Barbara Blackledge to President Atwater that expressed concerns over the time it will take to complete the university wide ceremony. The importance of the departmental ceremony was also addressed.

“My own opinion is the departmental ceremony is more meaningful,” said Jesick in a March 28 interview at his office.

Jesick said the departmental ceremony has been a part of IUP since 1972.

“I think the idea [of announcing each graduate’s name] is a good one, but I think you have to be practical,” said Jesick. “With how many people you are talking about, it’s going to take a long time.”

The estimated 2-3 hours it will take to call as many as 2,000 students in the university-wide ceremony was addressed in the letter to President Atwater.

“Should the students all decide to attend the field ceremony, it could easily take at least seven hours no matter how rapidly organized,” wrote Blackledge and Jesick in the letter.

Blackledge said in an April 8 interview that President Atwater did not respond to the letter. But she received two identical emails from the provost and the assistant provost that restated the president’s decision to change the graduation ceremony.

Simon, the commencement co-chair, said that the length of the university-wide ceremony will depend on how many students attend. But he said the committee is running simulations of reading students’ names and that the ceremony should take a little over two hours.

“The December ceremony has one line of students,” said Simon. “But after watching how other universities with a similar amount of students do their ceremonies, we will have two lines and two readers.”

Anita McFarren (senior, Musical Theater) is planning to attend the university-wide ceremony.

“It’s a nice tradition to go to your graduation ceremony,” said McFerron. “My family is coming up from Texas so I have to go. But it’s what you do–you walk the stage and get your diploma.”

David Werner, IUP interim provost, said in an April 3 interview that the university hopes to be better organized in the name reading.

“The focus is going to be on the students with less talking,” said Werner. “By working on making it more efficient, we can do more in the same amount of time.”

The Student Government Association asked students to voice concerns in a survey open to IUP students from Feb. 29 through March 7 for an event called “Speak Up IUP.” Some students addressed concerns about the graduation ceremony.

One student expressed a desire to see “more student input on campus decisions, i.e. changing graduation.”

Another student asked, “Do students have a choice in the matter?”

Blackledge and Jesick also addressed concerns over the decision-making process that went into the changes to President Atwater in the letter.

“This is why many departments still do perceive that your decision (made without considering input from our graduating students or department faculty) is most ill-advised and a major move to eliminate department graduation ceremonies,” wrote Blackledge and Jesick.

Blackledge said some Theater Department students are not attending the main ceremony in protest to the changes.

“They think it’s an attempt to invade their [departmental] ceremony,” said Blackledge.

Kelly Andrews, a junior majoring in journalism with a minor in English at IUP, is from Meadville.


Sidebar: Fast Facts

For More Information, please contact:

Michelle Fryling
Media and Public Relations
Sutton Hall 327
Indiana, PA 15705
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Phone: (724) 357-2302

David Werner
IUP interim provost
Sutton Hall 207
Indiana, PA 15705

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