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It is a longstanding tradition at Emmanuel that Commencement is held on campus. On November 2, a petition to have commencement moved to an alternative location began circulating social media.
This petition was started by Sabrina Sloan ’18 and Claire Serrano-Disla ’18 in hopes of having the ceremony moved to an alternate location that would allow more family and friends to present at Commencement.
“It’s a little irritating that our biggest moment of the four years we have spent here can only be enjoyed by four people, and it’s held in a parking lot,” said Sloan. “After discussing this with other students, we discovered that other people felt the same way. So we decided to make this petition to show how many other people were upset by this.”
Currently, Commencement is held in a tent in the Cardinal Cushing Library parking lot.
“When people hear that Commencement is held in a parking lot, it does raise some eyebrows,” said Dean of Students, Dr. Joe Onofretti, who serves as the senior class advisor and directs the procession on the day of graduation. “However, a lot of work goes into making sure that the area looks special for the occasion.”
In addition to the tent, the college brings in fences, plants, trees, and bushes to spruce up the parking lot.
“It really does look nice,” comment Onofretti.
According to Onofretti the tent holds roughly 3500-3800 people, which gives each graduate four tickets for friends and family members to attend. Alternate viewing is available in the Library Lecture Hall as well as in chairs outside of the tent.
“We use the parking lot because it really is the only space on campus large enough to fit the tent,” explained Onofretti.
In the past the Quad was used for Commencement, but as the class sizes grew larger it was no longer a viable space.
“The gym is also too small,” commented Onofretti, “If we used the gym, graduates would only be able to invite one guest to the ceremony.”
There has also been questions of holding Commencement at Clemente Field, however because of the turf on the field it is not possible to set up a tent there.
“In my opinion, there is a certain sentimental value to having the ceremony on campus,” said Onofretti.
Before the ceremony, graduates gather in the gym. Then they proceed around campus before entering the tent, where a line of faculty greets them as they walk in. After the ceremony, graduates and their families have the opportunity to use the campus for photos. Many people like to congregate on the Quad afterwards, as well.
“Our ceremony is also unique because students receive their actual diploma on stage the day of Commencement,” explained Onofretti. “Having the ceremony on our campus gives us the control necessary to do this. Moving to an alternate location would require giving up some of the control of the order of events, which would make it hard to hand out the actual diplomas.”
The petition so far has 235 petitions and it has sparked student discussion about the Commencement ceremony, both online and around campus.
Savannah Cardoso ’18 has mixed feelings about moving Commencement.
“I would like the ceremony to be in a nice location, but at the same time I want to graduate on my campus,” said Cardoso. “I started my journey here, so I want to finish it here.”
Others feel as though the construction of the new residence hall on campus will be disruptive of the event.
“With all the construction on campus I think it would be beneficial to move Commencement to a different location,” said Ashley Roberge ’18.
Others do not see a problem with keeping commencement the way that it is.
“Commencement has always been held on campus, so I’m okay with it staying here,” said Hunter Courchesne ’18.
Sloan and Serrano-Disla are in the process of setting up meetings with the college administration to discuss the ways that the petition could bring about a change for future classes at Emmanuel.
Katie Drewry ’19 is a Staff Writer for The Hub. She can be contacted at email@example.com.