University’s First Winter Graduation: A Disappointment for Some Students

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Published January 26, 2017
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The Montclarion
Rocky poses at Monday night’s commencement. Photo courtesy of Montclair State Instagram
Rocky poses at Monday night’s commencement. Photo courtesy of Montclair State Instagram

Rocky poses at Monday night’s commencement.
Photo courtesy of Montclair State Instagram

Montclair State held its first ever January commencement for graduates on Monday, but some students were unhappy with the disorganized ceremony and said they were unable to enjoy the special day.

“It was extremely disorganized to the point that students were leaving as soon as they got their diplomas,” recent graduate Fabiola Vargas said in an email to President Susan Cole which he shared with The Montclarion. “Everyone was walking out in the middle of the ceremony, which was very disrespectful and upsetting.”

Vargas also stated her annoyance with not being able to share the special day with family and friends after the ceremony as “students were getting kicked out” into the rainy weather and “treated as livestock.”

“My mom, whom I did not see until I got home was soaked and frustrated because she could not meet with me along with the rest of my family,” Vargas said.

Changes were made to this year’s graduation ceremonies, which were communicated to students in October. The university added a January ceremony for students who completed their studies in the fall semester. Also, instead of holding individual convocations on campus for each of the respective schools at Montclair State in addition to the all-encompassing commencement, they eliminated the smaller ceremonies and chose to only hold a commencement for all graduates, during which they call each one by name to receive their diploma.

In the absence of separate convocations for each school, the commencement was longer than past years, lasting about three hours. Many graduates decided to walk out after receiving their diploma instead of sitting through the entire ceremony.

The awful weather also contributed to some graduates not being able to enjoy the day especially those like Christine Paez, a business administration major, who had to travel longer distances to attend.

“They picked the worst day for this,” Paez said, who came from Scranton, PA to the commencement ceremony. “On the ride back to Pennsylvania I saw five accidents. There should be rain dates for these circumstances.”

Vargas also agreed that the university should have postponed the commencement for the safety of the graduates and their families due to the inclement weather.

Paez also said the workers at the Prudential Center were rude and her parents weren’t allowed to take pictures at the venue, so they had to leave to take pictures elsewhere.

“It was a great first start in holding a commencement that gives individual recognition to each graduate,” Ellen Griffin, assistant vice president of communications and marketing, said. “There were a number of things that went well, but there is always room for improvement.” Griffin also said they will be evaluating the feedback from the ceremony and will use it when planning future events.

Montclair State honored 2,277 graduates with degrees from their five schools at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The commencement address was delivered by Frankie Faison, a Tony-nominated actor for his role on Broadway in “Fences.”

“The ceremony was a new one for us and there were some unexpected bumps,” Karen Pennington, vice president for student development and campus life, said. “The staff will do everything in their power to try and avoid those in future ceremonies and make it memorable for students for all the right reasons.”

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