At the Student Association meeting on Feb. 10, President Christopher Dahl addressed concerns surrounding this year's commencement plan of holding two separate but identical ceremonies in Wilson Ice Arena.
SA President senior Danielle Forrest began by reading aloud a letter to the student body from Andrea Klein, director of Campus Scheduling and Events. The letter stressed that although this year's commencement may not be the traditional outdoor ceremony expected by seniors, it will be an "appropriate and benefitting ceremony." Klein said, "We want you to be proud of graduation day."
She expressed her concern with making the best of a less than ideal situation, pointing out that the ice arena will be transformed for the occasion with pipe and drape, floral settings purchased with money granted by SA and a backdrop comprised of seven new banners emblazoned with the values of Geneseo. The ceremonies will be equipped with a sound system and projection screens that will allow all guests to see students graduate.
In response to students' concerns surrounding the cleanliness of the venue, she wrote that "we will clean and prepare every inch of the ice arena."
Following the reading of Klein's letter, Dahl took the floor. "This is not a decision that I made happily," he said. "The outdoor commencement ceremony has been one of the things that has pleased me most in my time here."
Dahl said that with the governor's latest proposal, Geneseo may be faced with $3 million in budget cuts. "It's my job to try and figure out what's best for the college and the needs of students academically to graduate outweigh our desires for the graduation setting," he said.
Because building the outdoor stadium for commencement would cost around $150,000, it was necessary for the administration to look for other options. Dahl said that with assistance from student advocacy, a decision was reached after rethinking the situation three times. A permanent student committee on commencement has now been established.
The administration considered the possibilities of fundraising or charging a graduation fee in order to fund commencement, but deemed the fee, which could have been between $100 and $130 per graduate, unfair to students.
Polly Radosh, dean of the college, also stressed that this year will be difficult given that commencement exercises have never been organized this way. "Our issues are overwhelming," she said. "We've done our best not to just wring our hands over what we can't change."
Many students in attendance expressed their displeasure over the way in which seniors were assigned to one ceremony. Since students were split based on their primary major, many will not graduate in the same ceremony as their close friends or even siblings. Students at the meeting also expressed displeasure with the abruptness of the administration's notifications regarding their decisions. Both Dahl and Radosh expressed their desires to make the best of this year's situation and to learn from it.
"I hope we will not have indoor commencement exercises every year," said Radosh. "I know we will this year, and possibly next year."
Dahl mentioned, however, that if a permanent outdoor stadium is built, the need to build one annually from scratch will be eliminated, allowing for less costly outdoor ceremonies in future years.