by MEGAN DREHER & ALYSSA VELAZQUEZ, Features Editor & Production Editor
On Wednesday, Nov. 28, students marched from the Kelly Commons to Memorial Hall in protest of the ongoing Commencement issues. While holding signs and chanting, members of the Student Government and other concerned students requested to speak to both Dr. Brennan O’Donnell, President; and Dr. William Clyde, Provost and Executive Vice President about student concerns that were not being addressed in regards to the location of Commencement as well as the ticket number.
Prior to the protest, the administration had released a statement that was intended to compromise with student concerns. On Tuesday, November 20, The Office of the Provost sent an email that informed the Class of 2019 and their families that they were pleased the ticket count per student would be increased to three tickets inside of Draddy Gymnasium, the amount students have received in years prior. They also informed students of their hopeful effort to increase the ticket count to four.
“We are expediting this effort and intend to inform students and their families before our Christmas break with an update as to whether or not we can increase tickets available to each family to four, as requested in the Student Government Resolution passed during the assembly. Please be assured that safety in Draddy is of utmost importance and remains our priority,” said Dr. Clyde in his email.
Though this extra ticket was helpful to some, students still felt as though the administration was not willing to work with them in regards to moving Commencement off campus. This protest was organized and was intended to continue the conversation surrounding their concern. These are the events that transpired.
Students gathered in the Kelly Commons as they prepared to march to Memorial Hall. About 40 students were in attendance with signs that expressed their Commencement concerns. As they walked to the Quad, the students chanted.
Upon arriving to Memorial, Jaycie Cooper, Student Body President, and other members of Student Government knocked on President O’Donnell’s office door, as well as Dr. Clyde’s office door, and requested that they come outside to speak with students directly.
President O’Donnell came out from his office and spoke with members of Student Government on all of the existing Commencement issues.
The dialogue between the two started with Kerry Cavanagh, Vice President of Academic Affairs for Student Government, thanking President O’Donnell for taking the time to come out and speak to Student Government and the participants of the protest. O’Donnell then addressed the students as a whole and expressed his appreciation for them speaking out and ensures them that their voices are being heard.
He continues by stating that “[Administration] will continue to look for better and better options for this very important part of the college life” and that the steps for future commencements will be to “go back and take out a fresh sheet of paper and see if we can figure out a better way forward, including a possibility of surveying students like we did a couple years ago.”
In regards to the survey, Richard Satterlee, Vice President of Student Life, confirms that there will be a survey sent out in the spring semester to address the issue of selecting the venue that will be used for future classes’ commencements.
This dialogue then continues with Cavanagh asking if the same lack of communication will continue toward future classes. President O’Donnell admits that the lack of communication played a role in confusion and distress when organizing the commencement for the class of 2019.
He states, “I think we’ve been very candid about that as well, that we made a big mistake in putting out that information. It was not true, the information that was put out, and it’s very regrettable. So I apologize for that. I would’ve done it differently, we would’ve done it differently.”
In terms of the lack of communication, Cavanagh then brings up the idea of having a student representative sit in on the committee that handles the planning of commencements. O’Donnell states that this request is reasonable and that this can be discussed further with Student Government and Student Engagement. This idea is continued later on when members of Student Government have the opportunity to talk to Provost Clyde when the protest is wrapping up.
President O’Donnell thanks the students for coming out and voicing their concerns and then is called into his office for an appointment he has scheduled. Richard Satterlee and John Bennett, Director of Student Engagement, then briefly speak explaining the resources that are available to the student who wish to further express their concerns or learn more about what the next steps to take are.
Bennett expresses that the Student Engagement office is open to visits for those students who have any questions, comments or concerns.
Satterlee continues “As the president indicated, we understand the failure in the communication and, you know, promising to do a better job for this year’s commencement communication and going forward.”
While students were wrapping up the protest, Provost Clyde arrived to Memorial Hall. Vice President of the Student Body, Jara Giner asked the provost to join students to further discuss Commencement. Clyde initially responded with “Not really,” but later came out to discuss.
After Clyde goes into his office, members of Student Government thank the students who have decided to partake in the protest to voice their concerns, and also thank the members of administration who decided to join in on the discussion in Memorial Hall. The members remind the students of how Student Government could be contacted and when the next assembly meeting will be, which is Wednesday Dec. 5 on the fourth floor of Kelly Commons at 12pm.
Provost Clyde returns to the lobby of Memorial Hall where members of Student Government are awaiting to voice their concerns. In this, they reiterate what was discussed throughout the protest with President O’Donnell, Satterlee, and Bennett. When asked his thoughts on having more student representation on different committees and a survey being sent out to students, Clyde agrees that both could be done.
When most of the student protestors have dispersed, members of the Student Government Executive Board expressed their thoughts in response to the events that had transpired throughout the protest.
One notable aspect of the protest was the appearances made by the administration. Isabel Quinones, VP of Residential Affairs, notes that the administration came to the protest voluntarily. She states that “They heard about [the protest] through word of mouth and through our posts and advertisement about it. So we’re really grateful… this shows that they actually do care and they want to be here because they came here voluntarily.”
Regardless of what administration has said in the past and during the protest, Cooper is still optimistic and believes that the venue for the Class of 2019 can be changed. “I’ve called around to multiple event service venues… giving them the situation we have and saying ‘is it viable to move locations and to have a place that would fit four tickets in a comfortable space’ and I’ve gotten ‘yes, it’s possible to do,’” explains Cooper.
With this Cooper believes that what is frustrating about this whole situation is the “administrations stubbornness to not move it,” but that this doesn’t mean the protest wasn’t successful. The student’s voices were heard and because of the protest, change will be made for the next graduating class.
In terms of the changes that will be made in the foreseeable future, Cavanagh’s main takeaway from the protest is the importance of having student representation on the planning committee for commencement. By having this, the lack of communication between administrators and students will be lessened and students will be able to address their concerns more directly.
Cavanagh emphasizes this by stating “As Student Government we will hold them to that and I think the student body can expect that we will absolutely fight to the end so that students are heard and so that we can see change, even for this years graduation, and for sure, for future graduations.”