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Changes proposed for graduation

By Joey Capparella     4/10/13 7:00pm



Families of Rice graduates may not have to spend as much time in the heat thanks to changes to the commencement ceremony that could be implemented as soon as next year. 

Deputy Secretary to the Board of Trustees Cynthia Wilson, a member of the Marshals Commencement Committee called by the Office of the President, said the discussion began as a response to complaints about the length of the Saturday morning ceremony. 

"[The issue] arose due to complaints from family members who complained about the length of the ceremony," Wilson said. "Everybody loves the ceremony and thinks it's beautiful, but it gets really hot." 

Lovett College Student Association Senator Christian Neal, the student representative to the committee, said the proposed plan was to hold an additional undergraduate ceremony Friday night to shorten the Saturday morning ceremony. 

"The model is to have an undergraduate ceremony on Friday where the names are read but the degrees are not actually conferred," Neal, a junior, said. "Friday night, there is already a convocation ceremony where they give out certain senior awards so the idea is to combine this into one undergraduate ceremony that would occur in the academic quad." 

Wilson said the current format of the ceremony begins at 8:30 a.m. and lasts approximately 2 1/2 hours because all graduate and undergraduate students' names are read as they walk across the stage. 

"With the number of students increasing, [the ceremony] has gotten increasingly long," Wilson said. "[The committee] was trying to brainstorm ways to keep the grandeur of this ceremony and shorten it while still making everyone's graduation experience memorable and momentous." 

Wilson said the proposed changes would reduce the length of the Saturday ceremony to around one hour and fifteen minutes. The shortened Saturday ceremony would include the commencement speaker address, the conferral of degrees and the procession out of the Sallyport, Wilson said. 

Wilson and Neal said some graduate programs such as doctoral students and Master of Business Administration students already have separate ceremonies Friday night. 

Neal said another advantage of an undergraduate ceremony on Friday provides the opportunity for an undergraduate student speaker. 

 "As a very undergraduate-focused institution, it's surprising that we don't have a student speaker," Neal said. 

Neal said the committee had addressed possible negative consequences of the changes such as the effects on families' travel plans. However, Neal said the proposal has received mostly positive feedback from students so far. 

"At the SA meeting, the vibe I got was that if families are coming from far away they would be happy to go to two ceremonies," Neal said. "[The current ceremony] is so early on Saturday morning that they're probably coming and spending the night on Friday anyway." 

Wilson said committee members were currently collecting feedback on the proposal from various constituencies including the Faculty Senate and the Student Association, and that the current goal was to implement the changes in time for the 2014 commencement if the changes are approved by the Office of the President. 

Sid Richardson College senior Julianne Roberson said she attended the commencement ceremony last year and supports the possible change to two ceremonies. 

"It was pretty long," Roberson said. "They read off the names of all the Ph.D.s, MBA students and master's students, and that part wasn't very interesting." 

Roberson said the potential addition of an undergraduate speaker was a good idea. 

"[The current ceremony] feels like it's not focused on undergraduates," Roberson said. "In high school, you get to hear from the valedictorian. [An undergraduate speaker] would be good for bringing the focus back to the undergraduates." 

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