Long Beach State President Jane Close Conoley said contributing factors outside the surveys’ majority opinion led the decision to carry on with original plans at Angel Stadium, despite the commencement survey results.
“I went into this wanting to find a way, and so did the team. Everybody gets it,” Conoley said. “We just couldn’t make it work.”
Conoley also said the intent of the survey wasn’t meant to be a voting platform, but a tool to gauge the “level of concern” in the student body.
“I could see where students might have thought we were voting,” she said. “Maybe we shouldn’t have sent out that survey.”
As of March 7, the petition has accumulated to around 7,300 public signatures, including those from students and staff.
The university responded to the students’ outcry by emailing a survey to all graduates, giving them three options for their preferred ceremony.
The students could choose either option one, no preference; option two, continue with the ceremony as planned; or option three, to incorporate name reading into the main ceremony.
Around 33% of the graduates responded to the survey, and of those responses, a little over 50% asked to have their name read during the main ceremony.
Students claimed there was biased language in the third option of the survey, which seemed to discourage them from choosing to have their name read.
A strategic communications team had worked with members of ASI in writing the survey before it was sent out, and Conoley said she did not overlook it.
“It wasn’t our intent at all to be biased, we were just trying to be brief,” Conoley said.
The CSULB president and her team spoke with Angel Stadium the week the survey had gone out and said the biggest issue they faced was a lack of staffing.
The high number of retirements and resignations, as well as planning for staff who may have to self-isolate due to COVID-19, created a significant shortage of available help.
Hiring students to help with the ceremony was considered, but Conoley said this “complicated [things] with Angel Stadium” and the venue’s own staff.
Holding commencement on campus created a bigger issue, Conoley said, with a lack of vendors to supply chairs, TVs, porta-potties, and security.
“The lure of Angel Stadium was they have all that stuff there,” Conoley said. “It really wasn’t the money. Money’s a factor, but it wasn’t the biggest one.”
Four student graduates, including Santos, met with Conoley on Monday, Feb. 14, to address their concerns and offer suggestions for the 2022 commencement.
Erika Ramirez, a fall graduate with an international business major who attended the meeting, said the group had felt “hopeful” after speaking with Conoley.
“She kept telling us, ‘It’s your party and so I understand where you guys are coming from,’” Santos said.
When the students received the announcement that no changes would be made to the 2022 commencement, Ramirez said the group felt “defeated” and “discouraged.”
“It felt like everything we had been doing went down the drain,” Ramirez said.
Santos said she felt “blind-sided” in contrast to the optimistic outcome of Monday’s meeting with the CSULB president.
Ramirez and Santos said they planned to keep fighting against the Angel Stadium ceremony. If anything, Santos said, her goal was to be “as obnoxious as possible.”
“A lot of us are just not going to go to our own graduation, so we’re going to keep emailing them and letting them know how unhappy we are,” Santos said.
Santos said they continue to contact Conoley’s office for another meeting, and Ramirez is drafting an email template for all graduates to send to Angel Stadium. A group of students also created a table at the annual Week of Welcome, with protest signs and a link to sign the petition.
The likelihood of altering ceremonial plans at this point is low, according to Conoley. In the likely scenario that 2022 spring graduates will not get the ceremony they want, Santos and Ramirez said they and many other students wouldn’t attend.
“[My family is] not going to see me walk the stage,” Ramirez said. “They’re not going to hear my name called out, so why would I go?”
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Tuesday, March 8 at 11:53 p.m. to clarify information stated by university officials.