After the university’s first attempt at a single all-school commencement ceremony went awry last month, the administration is regrouping for its second try with the Class of 2017’s May graduation at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
“The administration obviously did not prep as well as they should have for an event that the many first-generation college kids—who they love to talk about—and their families hope to have memorialized in their minds,” said Padreigh Gonzalez, a graduate in the January ceremony.
Back in October, the university announced the elimination of individual on-campus convocations for each school, leaving just one commencement ceremony where each student would be called by name to receive their diploma. In addition, an annual January ceremony was added, the first of which occurred on Jan. 23.
While the ill-timed nor’easter contributed to the ceremony’s disappointment, other factors also affected the 2,277 graduates’ experience. Anticipating a lengthy ceremony after the elimination of separate on-campus convocations necessitated reading each student’s name one by one, many students decided to exit the building right after receiving their diplomas.
“Since this was a formal event, we didn’t anticipate that people would opt to leave before the ceremony ended,” said Ellen Griffin, the assistant vice president of communications and marketing at Montclair State.
Graduate Theadora Lecour noted that the ceremony seemed “short and sweet,” despite prior worries concerning the ceremony’s length. She explained that her only suggestion would be that “the students and parents be given space to reconnect after the ceremony.” She continued, “Students and guests were forced to leave through separate exits, and the torrential rain brought a swift end to any kind of picture-taking.”
In response to complaints about the logistics of the ceremony, a university spokesperson explained that they could not have anticipated many of the issues that occurred. For example, the weather was to blame for complications with driving to and parking at the venue.
Though many students argued that the university should have rescheduled the ceremony, the administration explained that it would not have been possible.
Minor complications with photography after the ceremony, flow and entrance and exit from the venue are what the university hopes to perfect for the spring 2017 commencement ceremony. The university spokesperson assured the campus community that they have been meeting and discussing the best ways to make the event as special and memorable as possible for the graduates.
“I’m upset that the weather ruined an indoor ceremony,” said Gonzalez. “I’m upset that I wasn’t able to get photos after the ceremony of which two-thirds of the graduates walked out. I’m upset at the way the workers treated myself and the remaining one-third, who did not walk out, and our families. They yelled and screamed at us to ‘get the f*ck outside’—of course outside being the freezing rain.”
At the end of the spring semester, Montclair State graduates will all be recognized at commencement on May 25 at the Prudential Center in a ceremony which the university assures will be a memorable one after months of rethinking and planning. Still, some seniors are vowing not to attend in response to negative reports from this year’s first go-around in January.