Cal State Long Beach Officials Change Commencement Ceremony Venue to Cut Costs, Accommodate Growing Crowds • Long Beach Post

The longstanding tradition of Cal State Long Beach graduates walking through the campus quad area each May has come to an end as university officials recently announced a venue change for the annual commencement ceremony in order to cut costs and accommodate growing crowds.

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In an email sent Friday, February 9, CSULB Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Brian Jersky notified graduating students that their commencement ceremony this spring will take place at the intramural fields instead of the quad.

The intramural fields. Photo by Medina Kabir.

“Given our steadily increasing number of graduates, we recognize the former venue can no longer safely accommodate growing commencement crowds,” Jersky stated. “This drove us to look for an alternate venue and gave us the opportunity to reduce overall costs and the number of ceremonies. After numerous discussions and practical planning, the intramural fields became the best choice for this year.”

News of the venue change was first reported by the Daily 49er on February 6, prompting the creation of an online petition on that has garnered over 5,000 signatures. 

Talks of changing the College of Liberal Arts commencement ceremony were revealed during a routine Academic Senate meeting recently, the student newspaper reported then. University officials apparently proposed to cut live music, which costs about $13,000, change the venue and shorten the time of the ceremony.

“The plan, as it’s been presented to me, would save us $100,000 a year,” President Jane Close Conoley told the senate, according to the Daily 49er. “It also would reduce some of the liability we experience with the people walking across campus.”

The quad at upper campus. Photo by Medina Kabir.

Since the online petition and backlash by students, faculty and staff, university officials have reinstated live music as opposed to the previously announced recorded music.

In a statement released the same day as Jersky’s email, Conoley thanked those who voiced their opinions on the proposed changes to the commencement ceremonies and revealed that the ceremonies would still include live music.

“These events are among the most important in the life of our campus, and the effects of these special days are far-reaching, so my team and I take each concern seriously,” Conoley stated.

“To begin with, I am happy to announce that the music lives! Live music will continue at the ceremonies. The biggest change will be the location. The quad has been the traditional venue for commencement but we have ‘outgrown’ the site in terms of numbers of participants, safety concerns and costs. In short, we will change venues but our longstanding, beloved traditions remain intact.”

University spokesman Jeff Bliss told the Post that private donations will fund the live music, which will be performed by students and conducted by a faculty member.

With the venue change, the ceremony will be closer to the parking lots so shuttles won’t be needed to transport guests, saving the school about $40,000 to $50,000, said Bliss.

As the number of graduates increase, Bliss noted that it has been difficult keeping ceremonies safer.

Graphic showing the number of degrees awarded between 2008 and 2017 courtesy of CSULB.

“If first responders need to show up it will be safer and easier for them to show up at the field,” said Bliss.

Last year, a total of 11 ceremonies were held, this year there will be nine, scheduled Tuesday, May 22 to Friday, May 25. Since the field is a larger space some ceremonies will be merged together, said Bliss.

Family members can still see a live streaming of the ceremony, this time at the Walter Pyramid where AC will be provided. Students will still be given eight tickets for family and friends to attend free of charge.

“Savings are important, we’re happy we’re able to keep students graduation fees to $45, one of the lowest in the CSU system,” said Bliss.

Despite these reasonings, students have expressed dismay with the new changes.

“I want my family to be surrounded by the buildings where I spent my actual time in—as opposed to the soccer field,” said sociology major Arlene Rosete. “We created most of our memories near the quad and to share that with my family at graduation was incredibly important to me.”

Graduating this semester, business major Jose Francisco expressed similar disappointment over the changes.

“I’m upset because every year they raise our fees, making us pay so much, and now they’re telling me I’m going to graduate next to a parking structure, that’s my reward?” said Francisco, who noted that students deserve a clearer explanation for the changes.

“Last [spring semester] when they were setting up for the commencement ceremony in the quad, all I could think about was ‘Wow this is going to be me next year,” said Francisco. “In just a second that vision was crushed, and it’s a big deal.”

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