Student feathers are still ruffled by Tech’s announcement concerning changes to future commencement ceremonies, which will be put in place beginning this year at the Fall 2012 commencement ceremony. These changes will establish a ticketing system for commencement ceremonies, and will combine the undergraduate commencement into a single ceremony.
In past years, the undergraduate ceremony was split into two ceremonies, the College of Engineering and then another for the rest of the graduating undergraduates. However, this resulted in a largely unhappy graduating class.
“[We] have solicited some student input, and when we split the engineers last time, we had a lot of people ask if they could walk with the engineers,” said President G.P. “Bud” Peterson.
“One thing we’re trying to do is create this one Georgia Tech mentality, and a lot of the students that graduated complained that they didn’t get to graduate with their engineering friends, because [their friends] were in different ceremonies”, Peterson said.
A combined ceremony does pose the threat of creating a lengthy ceremony, but Tech faculty has been working to ensure that having a single ceremony will not result in a diluted commencement experience.
The ticketing policy is the other half of the recent changes to the commencement ceremony for students. Graduating undergraduate students will be allotted six tickets for the Fall 2012 ceremony and Tech administration anticipates four tickets per student in Spring 2013.
Ticketing at peer institutions, such as Emory and Georgia State, has already been in place for several years, but is causing controversy on Tech’s campus. Currently, there is a student petition working to end ticketing for Tech’s commencement.
“Ticketing has some mixed emotions…but I think if the students understand the choices, they will opt for what we’ve decided to do,” Peterson said.
The decision to begin a ticketing system primarily results from the completion of the new McCamish Pavilion, whose construction was finished earlier this month.
While the new basketball arena was under construction, commencement was temporarily moved off campus, however it has always been the intent of the Institute to bring commencement back on campus.
In an effort to prevent the need for ticketing, other locations like the Georgia Dome and Bobby Dodd stadium have been considered. These venues come with their own set of issues.
“We could have it at the GA Dome…but that would take students away from campus, [and they] miss that last time on campus…It’s kind of impersonal [at the Dome],” Peterson said.
Bobby Dodd Stadium was also considered as a location, but as an outdoor location, required a detailed, multi-step alternative in the case of poor weather conditions. Also, with commencement held in Bobby Dodd, the turf would have to be replaced after every commencement, costing approximately $100,000.
McCamish Pavilion is currently the set location for the upcoming commencement ceremonies in Fall and Spring, though as a new venue, there may still be many uncertainties. Although the exact number is not known, McCamish is able to seat enough people for an event like commencement.
“The reason we ticketed in the summer and are ticketing in December-…[is because] we want to make sure we have the process well set up for May,” Peterson said.
Over the past four years, Tech’s budget has been cut by $100 million, causing the Tech administration to search for areas on campus where funding could be to compensate. By cancelling summer commencement, the Institute saved $50,000.
Charging a commencement fee was another option considered, but was an option disliked by Peterson.
“I don’t want to do that…[students] pay tuition for four or five years, you shouldn’t have to pay a fee to graduate”, Peterson said.