Turning the tassel on commencement time

Ciara Madigan


This summer, I was scrolling through Twitter, and I came across tweets about the time of Commencement change. In response to a student, @WhittierCollege replied, “Yes, the 2020 Commencement has been moved to 6:30 p.m. It should be cooler, and the later time is easier for a lot of families.” I made my way over to the College’s website to confirm that this 6:30 p.m. time change was legitimate, and there it was. Thoughts raced through my head as my levels of frustration and annoyance began to rise, “6:30 p.m.? Why 6:30 p.m.? Who decided that? Was anyone in the class of 2020 even consulted about this?”

I’m not going to deny that there are benefits to an evening Commencement, but going from 9:00 a.m. in the morning to 6:30 p.m. in the evening is a drastic change. Assuming that the ceremony runs from one and a half to two hours, that means that the ceremony ends anywhere between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. that night. Factoring in time to take pictures, walk back to cars, and getting out of the parking lot, that means that  will not be get off campus until about 9 p.m. or 9:30 p.m., and not everyone wants to or can celebrate that late. Sure, there is always the weekend to celebrate, but I would think that most people would want to continue the celebratory momentum of the day  after the ceremony. 

With all that being said, it is not so much that the actual time change frustrates me, it is more so that, beyond changing the time on the website and a few replies on Twitter, there has been no official announcement from the College. “I think it would have been nice for them to include us in the discussion; because it’s a big change. I didn’t find out about it until I looked online,” said fourth year, Priscila Villa. “I know some people were upset about it because they had already made plans. I think they could have made an announcement.” Considering the countless amounts of emails students get from the college on a daily basis, why has an email not been sent to notify students of the change?

Poets happily receive their diplomas on an early May morning.  COURTESY OF  WHITTIER DAILY NEWS

Poets happily receive their diplomas on an early May morning. COURTESY OF WHITTIER DAILY NEWS

Beyond the lack of communication about the time change, I feel like disabled individuals — whether they be students, family members, or friends — were not taken into consideration when the decision was made. Both my father and brother are disabled, and the thought of getting them up to Memorial Stadium has always been daunting; it would have been hard enough to maneuver them in a parking lot and to traverse the football field and bleachers during the day, but having to do so during the dark makes it all the more stressful and unsafe. While I’m sure the College will make the necessary accommodations for those who need them, that still does not quell my concerns. 

However, my family is lucky because they do not have to travel as far from the car to the football field as non-disabled individuals do. According to the “Parking and Accommodations” section of the Commencement page on the College website, “Commencement Day parking in campus lots is by permit only. Each graduate is allotted one parking permit which they may use to gain entry to any of the campus lots excluding Graham Athletics Center and Memorial Stadium. Parking in the Athletic Center and Memorial Stadium will be reserved for disabled and VIP parking only and will not be open to the general public.” 

There never seems to be enough parking during a normal school day, so I cannot even imagine the parking situation the night of Commencement. It seems likely that many families will be taking a long journey from Lower Campus to the football field. Oh, and let us not forget that they will not be walking when the sun is nice and high; they’ll be walking up to Memorial Stadium as the sun is going down and back to their cars in the dark of the night. There have been many times when I walked across campus in the evening or night and have felt unsafe because of how little lighting there is. Hopefully, everyone’s phones will be fully charged so they can use the flashlight to see where they are walking.

I will admit, a 6:30 p.m. Commencement is not the end of the world; it will be cooler, the sun will not be burning anyone alive, and it will be more convenient for friends and family members who work during the day. However, the positives of the time change does not negate the possible safety concerns for both disabled and non-disabled individuals. Additionally, they certainly do not make up for the fact that the College has yet to formally notify students that the time of Commencement has been changed. I’m sure that every student has been looking forward to Commencement at least at one point in their college career and wants their accomplishments to be celebrated. Given how momentous the occasion is for students, we have the right to know when changes are being made.