Graduation: We’re All in This Together*

*Except at graduation. For that we get divided into three separate groups

We’ve officially made it a full week into the semester, and the countdown timer on my phone has started ticking towards this upcoming May and I’ve already started to visualize myself walking across a graduation stage (to be fair, half of those visualizations are of me falling on my face, but that’s a different issue entirely). Graduation is a time where after years of hard work, Mines students can celebrate this accomplishment with our families, pretend that our student loans don’t exist for the next 6 months, and walk across the stage with the friends we’ve made along the way.

Well, most of them anyway.

At the beginning of last year, murmurs began to spread their way across campus – as if we were all back in middle school and everyone began to hear how the math teacher and the art teacher both went LA for spring break that year. These murmurs were focused on one thing, and one thing only -graduation. The 2019 spring graduation had been split into three separate ceremonies due to inclement weather, and now in early fall, it was being spread around campus that the 2020 spring graduation would also be in three separate ceremonies. Campus became an echo chamber for why this change was occurring – Was it a budget-based decision and don’t we pay enough to the school? Was it because weather in Colorado is unpredictable? Did it all stem from where all anxiety on this campus stems from – parking? Did we secretly sell off Marv Kay Stadium to fund the renovation of the steam tunnels to use as an underground bunker in case of WW3?

After sitting down and speaking to several people who had some input for the final decision or saw it progress along the way, turns out, a lot of those were factors – except maybe the last one. Lisa Elson, the Special Events Planner in the President’s Office, sat down with me to discuss the change. After last year’s Graduation ceremony, parents were polled on how they thought it went and despite the last-minute venue change due to weather, most if not all of the reactions to the separate ceremonies were positive. People appreciated the shorter ceremony, the temperature-controlled environment, and surprisingly parking services had no complaints throughout the entire day. Wheelchair and handicapped accessibility was easier to navigate overall the ceremony was enjoyed by all attendees. While this decision does happen to save money, Lisa emphasized that was in no way a major contributor to this decision. In the end it’s the student’s experience at graduation that matters the most and based on the feedback that was received from parents and guests, it was a good experience – but that could be because most of them didn’t have to sit through the hundreds of mechanical engineering graduates that are inevitable every year (you know we appreciate you).

Once it had been decided to move to three ceremonies, the idea was bumped down to some of the USG representatives. Senior USG Representative Lucy Davis explained that they were able to give their feedback on some of these decisions, but looking back at the source of this change, initially very little student input was considered until this phase. At this point, campus began to hear about this decision, and some people we’re not pleased. USG sent out a poll to the senior class to ask their opinions of this change and while the results slightly skewed towards favoring one graduation, it was pretty much a 50/50 split between the two options. The separate graduations continued to gain traction and is the current plan for the spring 2020 graduation.

Personally, I understand why this change happened, but that was only really after talking to some of the people who saw the decision as it happened and evolved into its final form; however, this is a celebration and ceremony (well, three ceremonies) of nearly 1,000 students who have been together for a couple years. My roommates freshman year and now my good friends comprised of a geophysics, a mechanical, a chemical, an environmental, and two civil engineering majors – a group of whom I will not be able to see nearly half of them graduate. Originally, yes -I would have had to sit through a fairly long ceremony perhaps in inclement weather, but now if I want to see them graduate in person, I would have to sit through three, just under 2-hour ceremonies. While I want to support them as they walk across the stage, I feel bad for not wanting to sit through that twice more than I need to.

While the logistics of all of these changes make complete sense, the interpreted message of what this change brings about seems to contradict the present initiatives on our campus. Just this year, Mines launched the “Every Oredigger” program with the slogan “We all climb together.” I’ve seen this program grow amazingly in the time since it started; however, when we claim that we all climb together – to me, there’s a disconnect because in our last moments as current Mines students, we’re climbing that graduation stage in 3 separate groups, a message that doesn’t sit quite right with me.

However, I would be remiss if I left out some of the other things that Lisa and Lucy both mentioned when I spoke to them. That idea I just mentioned? How separating the graduations by major sends a negative message to the community – they are aware of it, and between USG and the Mines administration, people are looking for new traditions to be made in lieu of some of the mixed messaging that has been sent out in terms of this change. They don’t want us to feel as if the community is being broken up by these ceremonies. Graduation is an exciting time for us as Mines students, and they want to make sure that we end on the best note we possibly can. So, if you find yourself thinking that this graduation situation could be improved, and you have a suggestion how, reach out to USG and share your ideas. The initial attention to this issue came from a ‘What’s Your Beef Post’ and that’s what sparked the conversation. In the end, graduation is about the students and if it can be made better, it’s on us to make it so. 

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