If you ask a typical student at Long Beach State to imagine their graduation, most will picture walking across the stage and being handed their diploma.
Some of us have been dreaming of that moment, and it’s something we will remember forever.
I don’t graduate until next year, so I still have hope for that dream, but to the students graduating this year, it matters now.
Once again, Commencement 2023 will be held at Angel Stadium in Anaheim without an opportunity for students to walk across the stage.
We always hear the phrase “for the students” at this university when regarding policy and decision-making, but it’s hard to understand how this choice was made with us in mind.
Instead of walking, the graduates are supposed to use “recognition stages.” These are small stages where students can pose in front of a screen-projected card listing their accomplishments and get their photos taken by family and friends.
While seemingly nice in concept, they aren’t a substitute for walking across the stage during the ceremony.
As soon as the administration allowed such a large student population to enroll at Long Beach State, they should have resigned themselves to meet the challenges that the large student population brings. That includes offering a traditional graduation.
It’s their responsibility.
The most we’ve heard about why we’re being asked to sacrifice this tradition is that it’s not feasible.
Are COVID-19 concerns why it’s not feasible? That’s why the ceremony was moved and changed in the first place.
Many students have already altered significant parts of their educations because of the pandemic. Using COVID-19 as a reason not to let people walk when most of the other CSUs have already switched back is ridiculous.
A spokesperson for the university told the Los Angeles Times that they’re expecting 14,700 students to graduate. I’d love to know where they got that figure, but that skepticism aside, let’s use it to crunch some numbers.
If students are walking across the stage at the rate of one student every five seconds, then it would take around 20 hours to get through them all. That is a long time.
What if we looked at the current plan with the recognition stages?
Let’s assume that there are five stages, which is more than they’ve had in the past, with every student taking about 30 seconds on one stage.
It would take 24.5 hours to get through every student.
Based on those numbers, it’s obvious that time constraints aren’t the issue, or maybe the school doesn’t think that all 14,700 students are going to be using the recognition stages.
If it’s a logistics problem for Angel Stadium, then we shouldn’t be holding the ceremony there. If the venue doesn’t fit the university’s needs, then we should find a different one.
Let’s just get to the elephant in the stadium. This is about money.
If I had to guess, I’d say that the budget allotted for commencement is enough to get us Angel Stadium for three days, which is not enough time for all the colleges to have traditional ceremonies.
I’d also guess that it’s somehow cheaper to do that than bring it back to campus.
Could it be that simple? That it’s cheaper to rent Angel Stadium?
If our graduating class is so large that they can’t have a normal graduation ceremony, then commencement weekend should have been converted to commencement week a long time ago.
Take five days to get through all the colleges, not three days. That’s what California State University Chico is doing, and their student population is less than half of ours.
If five days of renting Angel Stadium is too expensive, then bring the ceremony back to Long Beach. Surely at that point, the cost comparison between the two venues will roughly equalize.
Our university campus has plenty of room to hold commencement. We have The Pyramid, the ball fields and even the upper campus quad.
I bet we could even borrow Veterans Memorial Stadium at Long Beach City College. They hold commencement ceremonies there all the time, and it works out great for them.
Whatever is done, it’s time for the leadership at Brotman Hall to rip the band-aid off, bring the ceremony back to campus and let the students walk across the stage. The longer they wait, the harder it’s going to be.
They can keep the recognition stages. They’re great as a complement to a traditional ceremony but definitely not a substitute.