Campus divided over 2009 commencement ceremony

In a continuing effort to cope with severe budget cuts, President Christopher Dahl and the College Cabinet have announced plans to hold this spring's commencement ceremony in the Wilson Ice Arena instead of erecting a temporary outdoor stadium.

According to Dahl, the college was forced to confront the possibility of "unpleasant alternatives" to the outdoor ceremony late in the fall semester. "We're looking at everything and focusing on maintaining basic functions of the college," said Dahl.

In an e-mail to the senior class on Dec. 16, Dahl outlined three possible alternatives to constructing the $150,000 stadium: to hold the ceremony in the Blue Cross Ice Arena in Rochester, to hold one ceremony in the Wilson Ice Arena but limit each graduate to two guests, or to hold two identical ceremonies in the Wilson Ice Arena and allow each graduate five guests.

"I literally agonized over it with the other members of the Cabinet," Dahl said. "We could not come to any other conclusion."

The class will likely be split up by academic field, though the specifics have not been finalized.

Senior Class President Vivian Chiu said that although not all seniors are happy with the decision, "given the budget situation, [holding two ceremonies] seemed like the best option."

Dahl acknowledged that many seniors were in favor of holding the ceremony at Blue Cross Arena, but that alternative's savings turned out to be less than originally expected. He also pointed to the logistical problem of transporting Geneseo graduates and their guests to Rochester.

Chiu said that there was some discussion of possibly fundraising for the outdoor stadium, but that "we just didn't have the time or the resources" to raise such a huge amount of money in time to pay a contractor in advance.

Student Association President senior Danielle Forrest said that while there is no universally satisfying solution, "[President Dahl] definitely got input from the student leaders who would be representing the senior class this year."

Commencement had been held in the Wilson Ice Arena for a period of about 20 years until there was a student petition to hold it outdoors. A stadium has been erected in the B-parking lot since 1999. Dahl said that the administration prefers the outdoor ceremony and "will return to it when it is financially feasible."

Other recent cutbacks have included the cancellation of most college-sponsored holiday parties, cuts in departmental non-personnel budgets and a continuing freeze on the hiring of new faculty and staff. Geneseo has been faced with over $2 million in budget reductions this year, most of which are related to the state-wide financial crisis.