For a vast majority of Long Beach State students, walking across the graduation stage while hearing their names called for family and peers to witness has been a major incentive throughout years of grueling hard work.
From working multiple jobs to afford tuition and housing costs to investing years of their lives to finish their degrees, a traditional commencement ceremony is the least students can expect from the university.
However, the CSULB administration announced that they will host a COVID-modified graduation ceremony at Angel Stadium for the third year in a row, meaning that graduates will not have their names called nor have the opportunity to walk across the stage.
Considering that many students may only experience their college graduation once, the graduating seniors’ feelings of frustration and betrayal are rightfully justified, especially those of low socio-economic and first-generation backgrounds.
For students like Tatiana Navarrette, a Film & Electronic Arts major on the narrative track, her college graduation is a special moment of celebration. This is a major accomplishment within her family due to her first-generation status. But because Navarrette is unable to walk, she feels as if there’s hardly a celebration for her and her class’s accomplishments.
“I’m the first person on my dad’s side of the family to graduate from college, so it’s sad that I won’t hear my name called for graduation,” Navarrette said. “I’m just hoping that if they’re smart, they’ll listen to their students, especially the president.”
As a transfer student from Long Beach City College, Navarrette had applied to and received acceptance offers from various universities, but chose to attend CSULB for their film department. However, after she heard about the structure of the commencement ceremony, Navarrette felt betrayed.
Similarly, animation and illustration major Jordan Glickman expressed feeling misled by the administration. He assumed that the phonetic pronunciation request through his account meant his name would be read aloud. It wasn’t until a classmate shared a post on the Instagram account @letcsulbwalk23 that he found out he wasn’t walking.
“That’s what separates this year’s commencement compared to the last two years. Our school wasn’t upfront with what they were doing at all,” Glickman said. “They made us pay for something we didn’t know we were paying for and now we’re signed up for a commencement that nobody wanted.”
What was supposed to be one of the biggest milestones in a young graduate’s career is now tainted by the lack of sympathy on the administration’s behalf.
President Jane Close Conoley sent the graduating class several inconsistent emails that contain flawed rationale regarding why CSULB cannot host an on-campus ceremony.
In an email sent to Zeina Elrachid, the user behind @letcsulbwalk23, Conoley attributed the main deterrent for a traditional on-campus ceremony to a lack of funding. But with a graduation ceremony fee of $150 for each of the 15,000 students expected to attend in addition to the profits from the graduation attire, photos and souvenir sales—this made no sense.
Considering that the institution plans to spend $55 million repairing the leaks in the roof of the Walter Pyramid, students question where CSULB’s main priorities lie when it comes to funding, as the institution’s number one priority is to serve the student body.
The lack of transparency from the administration prompted CSULB alumnus Ryan Mardon to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request form regarding any communication between the president and representatives from Angel Stadium as well as the provost, including any financial records and signed contracts.
“I felt like the rationale seemed very haphazardly answered. It seems like there’s a reason they can’t get out of the Angel Stadium graduation, so it makes me wonder if there’s a contract signed that they never said anything about,” said Mardon. “I just felt that the school wasn’t being fully transparent.”
According to Mardon, the agency determined that some of the records were accessible to the public and will be sent in the following weeks.
Not only does the current commencement format rob students of the true graduation experience, but parents and family members who have waited the graduates’ entire lives to see them walk share similar feelings of disappointment.
As a single mom of a 2023 graduate, Elsa Pierce stated that her son’s graduation would have been a monumental moment for her family as he will be the first of her children to graduate from college. However, if the current structure of the ceremony were to remain, Pierce and her son will not be in attendance.
“As a parent who has sacrificed so much, it’s everything to me. To hear his name being called out is the epitome of everything we have sacrificed for,” Pierce said. “That one moment is so significant because it’s tradition and I don’t feel that it’s fair that it’s being taken away from us.”
Pierce was originally a prospective transfer student herself, but she no longer plans to accept her offer from CSULB for the upcoming fall after the commencement ceremony format was announced.
As a graduate of the school’s undergraduate and master’s programs, English Composition instructor Jake Teran sympathizes with the graduating class’ frustration as he acknowledges the significant milestone that is graduating from CSULB.
Although hope has dwindled among students, Teran believes that the amount of online exposure generated in the past several weeks may be a catalyst for creating change.
“There could be some change in the favor of students to where they call them individually, allow them to walk on stage and the parents could see them on the big screen,” Teran said. “That can be possible. Although it might not be everything the students want, at least it would be a big step forward.”
Although graduation season is right around the corner, the administration still has time to cut meaningless speeches to include time for name-calling and a stage can still be provided for students to walk across.
After all, it’s the least they deserve for getting their degree during the pandemic while still having to pay full tuition, Conoley.