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Commencement ceremony changes for the class of 2013

By Andrew WroblewskiStaff Writer

Hofstra University has changed the way it will host the 2013 Commencement Ceremony.  In past years, the University held the ceremony in the James M. Stuart Stadium and allowed for graduating students to have an unlimited amount of guests attend to see them receive their diploma.  However, for this year—and years to come—Hofstra has decided to move the ceremony to the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex and limit the amount of guests each student can have in attendance at the event.

The decision to change the event’s structure was made over the summer of 2012.  Each year, Hofstra officials meet to discuss how they can improve the events that Hofstra hosts.  Graduation—being one of the most important events—was of major discussion at this year’s meeting.  After lengthy discussion, Hofstra decided it must change the way the event is structured.  This was due mainly to constant concerns with the weather.

Each year, when graduation is upon the University, Hofstra is put into a scramble in order to prepare for the affair.  This takes months of planning, weeks of execution, and—most importantly—a perfect day for those who walk across the stage.  Unfortunately, in years past, Hofstra has had problems with the final step of that trio.

Of the past six graduations that Hofstra has hosted, there has only been one “perfect” day.  Unfortunately, the rest of these graduations saw rain, freezing cold, and/or unbearable heat.  This, as expected, makes graduation less than enjoyable.  Graduates sat in the rain, froze, or sweated, as they awaited their names to be called and, once their name was called, most just hastily walked across the stage, shortly leaving the ceremony thereafter.  This, of course, cannot happen.

Making matters worse, there did not seem to be any reasonable way for Hofstra to prepare a “rain plan” so that it can make adjustments to the event should the weather not cooperate.  Due to the incredible amount of students, staff and faculty, family members, etc. there is no real way that Hofstra could make a quick adjustment to the ceremony and have it be perfect.  In order to fix this, Hofstra began to search for alternative means.

“We started to explore our options for indoor space,” said Sandra Johnson, Vice President for Student Affairs at Hofstra.

Johnson noted how the University considered Nassau Coliseum as a viable option to host the graduation ceremony.  However, after further analysis, the Coliseum’s condition and the fact that it is not on-campus eliminated it from consideration.

“We just didn’t think that [the Coliseum] would have the right feel,” said Johnson.

Instead, Hofstra looked into other, on-campus, options.  Ultimately, Hofstra decided that, if it split graduation into two separate sections, it could host the graduation in the Sports and Exhibition Complex.  In order to do this, though, Hofstra was forced to limit the amount of tickets that each graduate has for the ceremony to five.  In between the first and second ceremonies and after the second, the University will host receptions for the graduates, their friend, and family.  These receptions will allow students who may be separated in the graduation ceremonies to come together, take photographs, and enjoy their special day.  The location of these receptions has yet to be determined, though.

The major factor that ultimately led to the execution of these changes was that hosting the Commencement in the Sports and Exhibition Complex will eliminate all weather concerns.  Along with this, the University believes that visibility will be improved, comfort levels will increase, and that the atmosphere could me made even more special by decorating the complex.

“The Complex can be made to be a very festive place,” said Johnson.

Hofstra has a few different plans to make the atmosphere as special as possible.  One such example is the idea that the University would set up special “photo booths” complete with massive, life-like backdrops of various places around Hofstra for graduates to take photos in.  In theory, these backdrops would be partial to the different schools at Hofstra—for example, the School of Communications would have a backdrop of the Hofstra news hub.  Hofstra believes that, with ideas like this, it can make graduation as special as it needs to be.

Hofstra does realize that some students are upset about the limited seating at the ceremony, though.  However, Hofstra is looking into ways to maximize the seating in the Sports and Exhibition Complex.  Hofstra believes there will be extra tickets available for the ceremony since not all graduates end up attending the ceremony and because some students do not utilize their allotted five tickets.

“Our facilities and operations staff is going to look at the allotment of additional tickets we will have for the ceremony, early on, in January,” said Johnson.  “These tickets can then be allotted in a fair and equitable manner to, for example, the student with four siblings and two parents,” added Johnson.

Amidst these changes, some Hofstra students have been less than happy.

“When I first found out, I was pretty upset just because I feel like commencement is a grand celebration.  It’s a special Hofstra tradition and I feel like they’ve [whoever made this decision] completely thrown it away” said Liz Weeden, Senior, Fall Festival Queen, and Co-Chair of the Senior Class Challenge.  “Hofstra commencement is the last time we’re all together as one group. We started as one group, and it would be nice if we could end as one group,” added Weeden.

Johnson, one of the Hofstra officials who has been interacting with concerned students, had a message for students who are upset.

“You mean so much to us and we want to make this work,” said Johnson.  “If we had a big, gigantic, place that we could put everybody in then we would.  We just don’t.  So we want to make this what it should be, and that’s one of the most special times in your life as a college student,” added Johnson.

Other students are upset with the way Hofstra informed the class of 2013 of the changes to graduation.

“It’s shocking that they didn’t tell us…not just the class of 2013, but the whole Hofstra community until now. I know that it wasn’t their intention to keep it secret, but it’s definitely a shock,” said Lawrence Daves, Senior, Fall Festival King, and Co-Chair of the Senior Class Challenge.

However, there were various factors that came into play before Hofstra could announce the changes to the Hofstra community.

“We wanted to make sure that we had determined the number of tickets that each student can have for the ceremony,” said Johnson.  “Our intent was to inform [the class of 2013] on September 1st, but we didn’t have all of the information we needed to make an announcement.  As soon as we knew for sure, we announced it,” said Johnson.

This hindered communication, may be the source of the outcry from Hofstra students.

Danielle Taddeo, a Senior Community Health major, was very hesitant about the changes being made by Hofstra to the ceremony.  However, as Taddeo learned exactly what Hofstra ultimately has planned for the event, Taddeo’s mind seemed to change.

“Now that I know Hofstra will be hosting receptions in between the ceremonies, I don’t have that much of a problem with the changes,” said Taddeo.  “My biggest concern was that I wouldn’t be with my most of my friends and family during the ceremony, however, if the receptions work out, then that shouldn’t be that big of a concern,” added Taddeo.

Some Hofstra officials are also welcoming the changes made to the ceremony.

“Having stood through freezing rain and scorching sunshine during past Commencement ceremonies, I have empathized with thousands of parents and family members who needed to do the same,” said Branka Kristic, Director of Parent and Family Programs at Hofstra. “I truly welcome the change of venue to the Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex and I believe that most Hofstra families will agree with me,” added Kristic.

Hofstra is also looking into ways to simulcast the ceremony in a different location on campus.  This, while not quite the real thing, will give family members of students a chance to see their graduate walk across the stage and receive their diploma.  However, Hofstra is still working on where exactly it would host the simulcast.

Johnson also noted that Senior Class Challenge and Senior Week have not been affected at all by the changes made to the graduation ceremony.

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