This past week CSULB officials announced their commencement ceremony plans for the graduating class of 2021-2022.
For the second year in a row, graduates will not receive individual recognition by having their names announced while crossing the main stage. Since the updated COVID-19 guidelines exclude crowd limitations for outdoor events we, the graduates, thought we would be getting a traditional ceremony.
After reading the university’s plans, many of us might not attend at all.
Recently, a group of students and I started a petition to ask the university to allow the graduates to cross the main stage while our names are announced and to allow each graduate at least six to 10 tickets for their guests. As of today, we have gathered over 4,000 signatures from family, friends, and graduates who think it is unfair for CSULB students to not be recognized by their own university.
It has been incredible to see how much support we have gained in such a short amount of time. Students from all backgrounds have teamed together to voice their opinion. We were total strangers who by chance commented on the same Instagram post and after sharing our frustrations, decided to take action.
In the process of sharing our petition, we have been accused of being “ungrateful” by other students and even some alumni. Even though I can understand why some would think this, I respectfully disagree.
Not every college experience is the same and some of us have had a more difficult path than others. Some of us didn’t have the opportunity to go to a four-year college after graduating high school and this is the case with many of the students who signed this petition, myself included.
I graduated high school in 2011 and I have been working towards this degree for the past 11 years. I graduated at a time when we still were experiencing hardships from the economic recession and even though my parents worked full-time, they struggled to make ends meet. They made just enough so that I didn’t qualify for FAFSA, but not enough to afford my tuition.
After high school, I had to get a full-time job to enroll at Long Beach Community College (LBCC). Working full-time meant I could afford my tuition, but it also meant I couldn’t take day classes, and oftentimes, the classes I needed were not available at night. I attended LBCC for seven years, but my goal had always been to transfer and graduate from CSULB.
Eventually, I quit my job to concentrate on my education. I was able to transfer to CSULB in the fall of 2018. It was a dream come true! I thought that once I quit my job, it would be easier to concentrate on my academics, but the truth is that it didn’t get any easier for me.
I worked 40 plus hours a week and had the same schedule for 5 years. I went from working in an office where I excelled at my job and knew all my co-workers, to attending a school where I didn’t have any friends, didn’t know the campus, and didn’t know what to expect.
I felt stressed, intimidated, and so overwhelmed that I developed anxiety and eventually fell into depression. I would often have panic attacks on my way to school and would wake up feeling nervous on the days I had class. It got to the point where I was failing. I felt so out of place that after my first semester, I had to consider taking academic leave.
Since my return, with the help of family, friends, and professors, I was able to pick up where I left off and this past fall, I earned my bachelor’s degree in business administration. I share my story, not for anybody’s pity, but so that others can understand why this ceremony is so meaningful.
It was a long and painful journey, but any time I felt like giving up I would imagine how good it would feel to wear my cap and gown, to hear my name be announced, to cross the commencement stage, and to see my parents watching me from the audience.
So, to anyone saying we are ungrateful, please understand that there were times we didn’t even think we would get this far. So, no, we are not ungrateful. In fact, we are very grateful to be able to say we actually finished.
We had struggles and obstacles that not everyone had to face. Some of us had to work full-time jobs to make sure we could cover our tuition. We had to stay up all night finishing our homework and then be at the office by 8 a.m. the next morning.
We’re not asking you to feel sorry for us, we’re asking for your empathy. For the people who signed this petition, this isn’t just a ceremony, it’s a symbol of accomplishment and we want to be able to cherish it forever.
We want the opportunity to share this experience with the ones we love and if CSULB goes forward with its current plans, we won’t get that opportunity.