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Students protest graduation move

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https://lvcampustimes.org/2018/03/students-protest-graduation-move/

Aryn Plax
Editor in Chief

Organizers of Spring Commencement this month announced the change of location for Spring 2018 Commencement, from Citizens Business Bank Arena to Campus West.

The location change saves money for the University, but will mean fewer tickets for graduates’ family and friends, an outdoor venue – and, as it turns out, the objections of more than 500 people.

Kassandra Yepez, senior business administration major, started a petition shortly after the March 14 venue change was announced. Posted on change.org, it urges that the administration listen to student concerns about the location change.

Commencement coordinator Maribel Rodriguez had stated in an email that Spring Commencement will be hosted on the multipurpose field of Campus West, and that each eligible candidate for graduation will receive up to eight tickets.

Yepez said that, as far as she remembered, eligible candidates had received 10 tickets in previous years.

Ruby Montaño-Cordova, associate dean of student affairs, said that eight tickets will be issued automatically, but students can apply for 10 tickets.

“We just had a lot of objection to it because we felt that we deserved the same kind of ceremony that others before us received,” Yepez said. “We felt that the softball field wasn’t an adequate representation of the amount of work that we put in to the University to get our degrees, so I and a lot of people started emailing back, responding to the email that was sent out to us.”

Montaño-Cordova said in an official emailed statement that the University’s spring commencements had taken place on one of the campus’ outdoor venues up until the spring of 2012, shortly after Ortmayer Stadium underwent renovation and got an artificial turf field installed.

The University planned to move commencement ceremonies back to campus venues after the warranty on the turf field expired in 10 years.

However, the increase in cost – by 72 percent in Spring 2017, and another 54 percent by Spring 2018 – forced the University to relocate the commencement ceremonies. Additionally, Montaño-Cordova said that the University wanted its students to feel more connected to their alma mater by graduating on campus.

“Part of the reason is that Citizen’s Bank Arena significantly increased the cost,” said Provost Jonathan Reed. “So we’re returning commencement back to the main campus, where it had been throughout our history.”

Montaño-Cordova said that she had looked at the Fairplex, the Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, and the Ontario Convention Center before settling on Campus West.

Yepez started the petition with a goal for 150 signatures. That was surpassed goal within 24 hours. As of Thursday, it had more than 500 signatures from graduating students and their parents.

The petition can be found at change.org/p/rmontano-cordova-laverne-edu-ulv-spring-commencement-location-concerns.

Yepez said students are concerned about the size, and problems of an outdoor venue.

“A few friends that I know can’t be in the sun for long periods of time, so it becomes a question of whether they can attend their own graduation ceremony because of allergies. And the reactions they have to being exposed to it for so long,” Yepez said. “It’s just those little things that we shouldn’t have to worry about.”

Taylor Distelrath, senior psychology major, said she found the official emailed statement from Montaño-Cordova to be dismissive of student concerns. She was disheartened by the lack of student voices in the decision to change the location. And she disagreed with Montaño-Cordova’s reasons for moving the ceremony.

“I don’t see how having it on a baseball field would further connect us to the alma mater,” Distelrath said. “If anything … it makes us more resentful toward the school because it’s not something that we want.”

Distelrath also said that students wanted to know what the $140 graduation fee is going toward, if not toward paying for the venue that the students had been looking forward to.

“It’s an administrative fee,” Montaño-Cordova said. “It pays for the diploma covers, the cost of the ceremony itself, and anything else added on.”

For more information on spring commencement, visit laverne.edu/commencement.

Aryn Plax can be reached at aryn.plax@laverne.edu.

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