Campus, News

President Conoley addresses graduation concerns

CSULB is proceeding with a non-traditional graduation ceremony for the third year in a row, despite protests from students, parents and faculty to change the upcoming graduation ceremony.

President Jane Close Conoley stated that the plans have not changed and students will not walk across the stage or have their names read aloud at commencement.

“We can’t make it work this year,” Conoley said. “I understand the students want to cross the stage, they want their names read. And we spent an enormous amount of time trying to figure out how to do that. We just couldn’t do it.”

Although the ceremony for spring is set, Conoley expressed hope for future ceremonies to include the more traditional elements after the 2023 commencement due to the feedback from frustrated students.

Administration has faced backlash as a result of this decision, there is currently a petition circulating that has reached more than 18,700 signatures as of April 7 and gained attention from news outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, NBC Los Angeles and ABC7.

After a month without changes being made to the graduation plans, students chose to protest on April 4 in hopes of reaching university officials and urging them to reconsider the ceremony.

In an interview with Conoley, she stated that administration has done everything in its power to adjust the ceremony to best fit the needs of the students, faculty and guests.

Although she would like to return to a traditional ceremony, due to a variety of issues such as a lack of staffing, vendors and financial concerns, CSULB will not host a traditional ceremony for this year’s graduates.

“I know that there are many, many disappointed students, and I feel very distressed by that,” Conoley said. “But I can assure students that we’ve gone back and forth about this over and over again, trying to find a solution.”

According to Conoley, university leaders begin plans for the spring ceremonies during the summer, so switching to a traditional commencement would not be attainable.

As a result of COVID-19, administration faced challenges arranging contracts with vendors for the past three years, leading them to settle on Angel Stadium as the graduation venue. A lack of staffing for commencement along with accessibility and parking were also variables that impacted the decision to stay at Angel Stadium this year.

“At the end of the day, I have to make a decision that’s fair to staff, and fair to students, and manage the trade-offs that are out there. But certainly, the concern students have expressed have been heard,” she said. “As soon as this [ceremony] is over, we’ll go back to the drawing board.”

While many students believe that the contract with Angel Stadium is ongoing, Conoley disputed these claims, saying that the contract is yearly and reevaluated at the end of each graduation ceremony.

Campus leaders and officials expressed hope that CSULB will be able to return to a traditional ceremony in the future, but this would require compromise from all university officials.

“We have to get everybody on board for this because to do that, that’s going to mean a lot more faculty commitment, a lot more staff commitment,” she said. “So, we’ll start with a fresh, blank slate after the 2023 ceremony, and we’ll start pricing out to see if we’ll actually be able to return to a traditional style.”

CSULB officials say they understand the frustration among graduating seniors and their families, Conoley hopes that this will not deter students from participating in the upcoming ceremony.

“Not attending negates the whole four or five or six-year experience. To say, ‘my whole experience is ruined, because I didn’t get the ceremony that I wanted,’ I feel that tying so much emotion into one single thing is unfortunate,” she said.

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