Commencement Addressed at Student Government Assembly Meeting

by Megan Dreher, Features Editor

On Wednesday, Nov. 14, students gathered in Kelly 5A at the Student Government assembly meeting to address their concerns regarding the location of Spring Commencement with members of the Manhattan College administration.

Members of the administration in attendance include William Clyde, Provost and executive vice president; Charles Clency, new director of residence life; John Bennett, director of student development; Lydia Gray, executive director for marketing and communication; Ann Mavor, new director of health services; Tiffany French, assistant dean of students; Richard Satterlee, vice president of student life; and Gail Conklin, events manager for marketing and communication.

Patricia Gunn Doherty, director of special events and commencement, was not in attendance.

Following the introduction of the administration, Jaycie Cooper, student body president, opened the floor to students who wished to voice their concerns as well as ask questions directed towards the administration on the issue of commencement. It was the largest showing of students at an assembly meeting in the college’s recent history.

During this time, students shared personal accounts of why two tickets were not ideal for their familial situations, whether it be that they were the first in their families to go to college, or that they were uncomfortable choosing between family members to sit inside of Draddy Gymnasium.

“I’m married, and the first in my family to graduate college. How do I tell my wife she can’t come inside of Draddy so my parents can attend?” said Michael Giraldo, a student veteran here at Manhattan College.

Other students were less concerned about the number of tickets, though agreeing it was not ideal, but focused more of their concern on the temperature inside of Draddy.

“I am a performing arts scholarship student, so that means I have had to be present for the past several graduations as well as the baccalaureate mass. A huge issue that that venue has always had is the sweltering heat. My father is extremely sensitive to those sorts of conditions, so I know that the heat alone would be preventing him from being able to see me graduate, which I think is very unfortunate,” said Erin Plitt, a senior graduating in the Spring. Clyde had the opportunity to respond to some of the comments and questions that students voiced.

“We have been talking about this for four years, and we have explored different options. One thing I will put out because it was discussed a couple of times, we have a solution for air conditioning in Draddy,” said Clyde.

Outside venues were discussed, including Gaelic Park, according to Clyde. But Clyde also noted that previous conversation proved that there was “at least mixed, and not a majority of interest” in graduation occurring off campus, so long as on campus accommodations would include the adequate amount of seating.

Students rebutted against Clyde’s claim that students “preferred” to graduate inside of Draddy. Clyde responded by stating that there was a survey sent out in 2014 on this matter, but agreed that there should be a survey sent out to students and parents more frequently.

None of the off-campus options seemed “viable” due to the fact that they were not available from the venues’ perspective, so Gaelic Park was looking more promising. After running into issues with the clearance for capacity in Gaelic Park, the venue was taken off the table as an option in August 2018.

In terms of capacity concerns inside of Draddy Gymnasium, the building is rated to host different capacities based off of different events. For commencement, the building is rated for 3600 people. That number is based off of the number of accessible exits in the venue. As of right now, with that capacity rating and the current enrollment of the Class of 2019, the amount of tickets available to students is right on the cusp of three per person. In an effort not to oversell the venue, the restriction of two tickets per student was decided upon.

Though the discussion around commencement concluded after 36 minutes, students demanded that their voices were heard. Members of the administration were invited to stay to continue the conversation after the assembly concluded, but only Clency, Bennett, Mavor, French, and Satterlee remained in attendance.

The resolution regarding the Manhattan College Commencement Exercises, sponsored by over 346 currently enrolled students, was passed by the voting members of the Assembly, and will now move on to the Senate.

The Senate meeting will occur on November 20 in the Alumni Room of O’Malley Library at 3 p.m. All students are invited to attend to continue addressing their concerns. Further action will be addressed contingent upon the Senate meeting decision.

Follow the Quadrangle for continuing coverage on this matter.