Shocked, hurt and confused. That was my initial reaction to hearing the news late Tuesday night about the decision to move Spring Commencement to Eastern Michigan University’s Rynearson Stadium. I suspect that many of my fellow seniors felt the same way. Without further explanation from the University administration, we may never move past that initial reaction.
Within 12 hours of my launching an informative website (bighouse08.blogspot.com), more than 40 other students as well as some parents and alumni contacted me seeking further information and clarifications. Like me, they were upset and wanted to take action. Over the next few days, we will create a forum for students to voice their opinions and questions, and we will take our concerns to the administration with a unified voice.
I don’t want to picket the Fleming Administration Building. Nor do I wish to be a divisive force between the administration and the students. However, I am not content to sit back and complain about what “they” did and demand that “someone” do “something.”
As four years of living and loving Ann Arbor and the University draw to a close, I seek understanding. A detailed explanation of the decision-making process that took place over the last month is necessary. We need transparency.
The administration, I am sure, has weighed the pros and cons of moving the ceremony off-campus. They are forced to walk a fine line between a long-standing tradition, doing what is financially feasible and considering the wishes of the family members and friends who eagerly anticipate commencement as much as graduates do. Administrators claim that they only found out about these construction plans in mid-December, and I’m sure blame could be shifted around to the construction contractors as well.
Yet where is the evidence of this careful decision-making? Why was the situation only recognized last month? Was this year’s commencement not on the calendars? To what degree were students involved in this decision, and how was student reaction considered? I would like these questions answered.
Once these questions are answered, the decision to hold commencement off-campus must be re-evaluated. It may be possible, though costly, to make part of the Big House useable with power generators, portable restrooms and an accessible seating area on the field itself.
If the ceremony as currently planned will be shown on screens in Crisler Arena, why can’t a similar plan accommodate guests who would be without seats in a mid-renovation Big House?
I am responding with suggestions to the points of contention the administration has referenced; I would have more substantial responses had the administration provided more substantial reasoning.
I want a chance to be on my university’s field as I graduate with the entire class of 2008, to look up and know my family is somewhere in the stands. Like my peers, I have been eagerly awaiting my turn to walk with pride as I graduate from the University. If the administration says I must do it at Rynearson Stadium, they’ll need to convince me first.

Juhi Aggarwal is an LSA senior and creator of the blog “Michigan Graduation 2008 … Not at the Big House?”.

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