Cal State Long Beach will move forward with its plan to host its 2022 commencement ceremony at Angels Stadium this year despite some pushback from students who wanted their names read aloud as they walked across the graduation stage.
Earlier this month, CSULB students expressed disappointment over the university’s commencement plan that includes multiple two-hour ceremonies held over the course of three days from May 16 to 18. Students will hear remarks from distinguished speakers, outstanding graduates and the dean of each college, but they will not be walking across the stage or hearing their names read aloud.
They will, however, be able to access eight “Instagram-worthy” graduate recognition stages before and after the ceremony at which students will be able to scan a QR code and have a personalized graduation slide projected on a screen behind them with a pre-recording of their name, according to a campuswide email CSULB President Jane Conoley sent Friday morning.
After some students began voicing their displeasure with graduation plans, the university released a survey asking seniors to pick between three options: They could either choose to keep the current commencement ceremonies, choose no preference or choose walking across the stage and have their names read aloud. (Some students criticized the language used in the third option, which said graduates would experience a ceremony up to four hours long while being “seated on the stadium field, most likely in direct sun, for the entire program.”)
According to Conoley, 33% of CSULB’s roughly 12,000 eligible graduating seniors participated in the survey. Of those, 2,259 preferred name-reading and stage-walking, 1,851 preferred the existing plans and 220 had no preference between the options.
The results, however, did not sway the university to change its plans.
“Despite my genuine gratitude for our students’ advocacy and our best problem-solving efforts, issues especially around logistical realities, staffing availability, and cost cause me to decide that we will move forward with the original plan,” said Conoley in a statement to students.
For some, walking the stage and hearing their names read aloud would make or break their decision to attend the commencement ceremony.
Alyssa Gomez, a health care administration major, told the Long Beach Post that she will no longer be attending graduation.
“I just feel ignored. … They acknowledged what we wanted, but they’re going to go ahead and move forward with their own plan,” she said.
Gomez said she was excited for her 102-year-old great grandmother to see her graduate but does not believe the current ceremony is worth the traffic at Angels Stadium.
Originally, the university cited COVID-19 concerns as their reasoning for the commencement decision, but a recent email from Conoley to students said that changing the ceremony would cost over $1 million.
“Every entity is short-staffed because of covid and I could not justify adding almost another million dollars to the already huge outlay. I also could not ask our staff, who are already over-stretched because of so many retirements and resignations, to work from early morning to very late at night to accommodate the long ceremonies,” Conoley wrote in an email to a student.
Xiomara Santos, a CSULB fall 2021 graduate created a petition on Jan. 20, the same day the university announced the ceremony plans, urging students to voice their concerns regarding commencement. The petition has received over 7,000 signatures.
Santos got emotional when she reflected on the work that she and fellow organizers did over the past month. She said she felt confident that the university would change its plans after a meeting with Conoley on Monday afternoon.
“She told us that it’s very likely that we’re going to get our names called, and that we will walk the stage. I mean, she sounded so sure of it,” said Santos. “I feel like I’m not a real alumni.”
For students, graduation was a symbol of the hard work they put in over the years. For others, it was something that their parents and families had been looking forward to since their children were young.
Evan Snithh, a first-generation graduating senior, said hearing his name read aloud would be the ultimate way to show gratitude to his parents for the sacrifices they made to ensure he had a good education.
“I know it seems like a small thing, but it is something that means a lot to me,” said Snithh.