Long Beach State students chanted and held signs outside Brotman Hall on Tuesday in protest of the spring commencement, after university officials declined to meet with them to discuss their graduation ceremony.
For the third year in a row, CSULB students were refused a traditional graduation ceremony, where graduates will not be permitted to walk across the stage or have their names called.
Zeina Elrachid, a fourth year molecular cell biology major and first generation student, lead the group of 35 demonstrators in a series of chants, such as “Don’t talk, let us walk,” “Stop playing games, call our names” and “We deserve appreciation, let us walk at graduation.”
Elrachid, along with Po Garcia and Mahek Patel, are the three CSULB student leaders of the organization, Let ’23 Walk, with a Discord chat of over 800 participants that planned the demonstration.
“My parents crossed borders so I could cross the stage,” Elrachid said. “We are not going to go down without a fight, is that right?”
Among the flyers that were passed out during the demonstration was a copy of Elrachid’s email to CSULB President Jane Close Conoley on March 19, asking for a thirty minute meeting with the president.
The three organization leaders have only managed to arrange a meeting with Jeff Klaus, vice president of student affairs, on March 13 over the issue, while the rest of the administration had been “silent,” according to the email.
Conoley’s response acknowledged the students’ concern, but did not offer an appointment to meet in person.
“You and other students are certainly heard,” Conoley said in her email. “I won’t repeat all the issues I’ve already shared.”
Sophia Moreno, a fourth year finance major, said it was important the administration hears the students’ concerns over the ceremony and take action, “rather than make up excuses every time.”
“I would’ve chosen to go to Cal State Fullerton or Cal State LA had I known Long Beach wouldn’t let us walk,” Moreno said.
Student demonstrators also handed out pink flyers with a QR code linked to a petition to let the 2023 class walk, which has currently over 18,000 signatures.
Among the gathered demonstrators was a parent who drove an hour from Redlands to support her daughter, Kristen Henry, who was graduating this spring with a major in child development and family studies.
“The walking and the reading of the name is the most important rite of passage when you graduate college,” said Pamela Henry, the student’s mother.
Pamela Henry said Kristen Henry’s older sister graduated from UC Irvine in 2020 and the family had to miss the ceremony due to the pandemic, which “was very disappointing.”
“To have the same kind of carry over in a time where you can actually walk and read the names that’s not a covid issue seems unfair,” Henry said.
Many of the demonstrators were first generation students, such as Fady Mena, a first generation Egyptian student with a major in electrical engineering. Mena said he had “lost respect” for the university.
“If we can’t change something, we’ll let them know they won’t get away with it,” Mena said. “Call it anything but graduation if they’re just going to make us sit there.”