Long Beach State fourth-year students were protesting the spring semester’s socially distanced graduation at the Free Speech Lawn on Thursday morning.
The students present at the protest held a sign with a QR code linked to a petition with over 6,500 signatures.
“It’s been 11 years since I graduated high school,” said Stefani Lang, a fourth-year biomedical major as she stood on the lawn, holding the sign. “Completing that journey, that milestone is important to me.”
The CSULB commencement website announced on Jan. 22 that the graduation ceremony would be held at the Angel Stadium again. Instead of graduates walking across the main stage, there would be mini-stages in the parking lot displaying Grad Slides before and after the graduation ceremony.
Several graduating students have been disappointed with these plans and asked the university to return to a traditional ceremony.
“I was robbed of my whole experience here,” Jose Sanchez-Castro, a fourth-year anthropology major said. “That’s the least we can get out of it.”
Xiomara Santos, a graduating CSULB senior, created a petition the same day the announcement was released and listed suggestions and modification requests for the ceremony.
Santos wrote in the petition that many students do not understand or accept why the university “will not allow its graduating students to [walk across] the main stage inside the stadium while their names are announced.”
The number of students who arrived at the commencement protest was small, with fewer than 10 students throughout the day. However, graduating seniors were visited by various CSULB administrative officials, such as Piya Bose, the dean of students.
“I appreciate and respect that our students are advocating for something that they believe in and want,” Bose said. “The students who are advocating for changes to commencement are using the appropriate avenues for advocacy.”
Stefani Lang and Gena Faranda, a fourth-year sign language and a linguistics major, are both in a commencement discord group chat and said they planned to continue protesting at ASI’s Week of Welcome (WoW) later this month as well as Grad Fair before spring break.
“We’re hoping to get approval for posters that we can post in all the departments with the QR code,” Faranda said, adding that some students still weren’t aware of the petition for the commencement ceremony.
Some CSUs such as Fullerton, Pomona, and San Diego will be holding their commencement ceremonies on their campuses where graduates will be walking across the main stage with their names read out loud.
“We hope that the administration keeps listening to the students’ voices and considers what they want,” ASI senator, Anthony Regina said. “We’re going to continue advocating on the students’ behalf.”