Graduation changes could mean only Ph.D’s get to walk

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Cries of anger and frustration erupted at the Council of Presidents meeting last night after Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dr. Sullivan Welborne announced the possibility of graduates not being able to walk across the stage to receive their diploma.

“I was just informed about a week ago for me to check out the student input, and that’s when I was notified,” Welborne said. “I’m quite sure there could have been discussions, but I’m not on the commencement committee.”

The proposed changes will only allow for the students receiving their doctoral degree to walk across the stage and have their name called. All other graduates will stand in groups by school or college, turn their tassels, and sit back down.

The Commencement Committee will decide today if the change will be made officially or not.  Many students were upset when they found out that this decision could be made, and also that it would take affect at the December graduation. If this change is made, it will be permanent.

“I think this is very unfair towards all graduates,” senior engineering major Dennis Mills said. “Being that we all had to work very hard. A lot of people struggled to get their degrees, whether it was financial, or academic. I feel that us walking across the stage is a way of showing respects to ourselves and our families.”

This is a decision that could have a potentially negative impact on the amount of attendance from students at graduation. Mills said that he wouldn’t go to the ceremony because he said there would no longer be a reason to go.

A&T is not the only University that would handle commencement in this manner if the change were made. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro only has their students stand and turn their tassels. However, some students at UNCG also do not like this and say that A&T shouldn’t change.

“I hate it, I feel like I invested my time, my money, my energy for four years, and I can’t even get two seconds to get acknowledged,” senior psychology major Janae Brown said. “I owe that to my family and all the people that supported me, and I hate the fact that they don’t get to hear my name called.

“I have people coming from out of state; New York, D.C., Ohio, various parts of the United States, to see my class and me rise simultaneously, and sit back down. That was one of the reasons why I like and appreciate HBCU’s, is that you are given your two moments of shine time at graduation. That’s why I wanted to go to an HBCU for grad school.”

Students suggested that there might be other ways to cut time on graduation besides cutting out peoples names from the program. Some suggestions were to place time limits on special speakers, and to cut back on extended greetings.  Michael Green, the President of the Council of Presidents also said that students having self-control could really help as well.

“I think that students should have some responsibility in policing themselves into sitting there and respecting their peers in the ceremony,” Green said. As a council, a motion was passed to say that the student organizations are against this decision.

Senior Class President Katerra Riggins is on the commencement committee. She said that while she was aware of the proposed changes, she was also told that there would be a larger form for students to voice their concerns and be heard.

“I think it would be a really big issue with the senior class. Commencement is a big deal to seniors, so for them not to get their names called…it would really cause a riot around campus,” Riggins said.

“I will fight for their names called. I was just under the impression that a larger meeting was going to be had after the meeting we have coming up on Wed (today). As a senior, I would personally want my name called and I think there are other ways to shorten Graduation besides people not get their name called.”

Welborne said that many other schools also have their commencement structured in the same way. Upon further research, The Register discovered that Howard University has separate graduations, but Kentucky State University and Winston-Salem State University, have all graduates names called in one ceremony. When asked how he felt students would react, Welborne said that they were very uncomfortable with making a change at this time.

“They feel that many of them are first generation students, and one of the unique things of this institution is to allow them that privilege which is monumental for some families. When you have finally made it, a lot of families feel that this is just a small token of you making it,” Welborne said.

“Students also felt that at this time any more negative press would just do more damage to the reputation of the University. Students also felt that alternatives like individual staggered award ceremonies after the main commencements.”

“If this was me, I would have to say what one of the students said: ‘I’ve been here four years, and I have looked forward to this, and now you come here, less than two months before graduation, to talk to me about a change,” Welborne said.  “If this was going to be a change I should have been notified a long time ago.'”

  • Dexter R. Mullins & Kelcie McCrae