In order to gauge student priorities for the Spring Commencement ceremony, University officials plan to distribute a survey to graduating students.
The announcement came last night at a forum held to discuss the location of the ceremony. University officials announced earlier this month that the ceremony would be held at Eastern Michigan’s Rynearson Stadium instead of Michigan Stadium due to ongoing construction of luxury boxes at the Big House.
On Monday, University officials told students they would reconsider holding the ceremony at Michigan Stadium, but only part of the stadium would be available for use. Administrators said they’re also considering other options.
The survey will ask seniors questions like how many guests they want to bring and how much they value an on-campus graduation. Officials said they plan to use this information to evaluate sites for the ceremony. Last night’s meeting had to be relocated from the Michigan Student Assembly Chambers in the Michigan Union to Auditorium B of Angell Hall to accommodate the crowd of about 200 students.
A group of University officials, including University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham and E. Royster Harper, the vice president for student affairs, moderated the discussion. Cunningham said after the meeting that the University hopes to distribute the survey to students “within the next couple of days.”
The two-hour-long question and answer session quickly turned into students telling administrators why holding graduation at the Big House is important.
“I remember telling myself after the loss to Ohio State that I had comfort in knowing I’d get to walk through the Big House one last time for graduation,” LSA senior Amanda Perring said. “Now, I’m being told I can’t do that. If I can’t graduate from the Big House, I will leave this school with a bitter taste in my mouth.”
Many students were less sentimental and a lot more blunt.
“Why can’t we just tell them what to do?” asked LSA senior Mike Anton, referring to the construction workers renovating the stadium. “If we’re paying them to do this work, why can’t we tell them what to do?”
Harper said it’s not as simple as making a demand.
“Just telling people what you’re going to do doesn’t always work,” Harper said. “I’m sure that’s how many of you all felt – that we told you what we were going to do about graduation. It’s not that simple. That’s why we’re revisiting the issue. In retrospect, we wouldn’t do it this way again.”
During the meeting, University officials used a PowerPoint presentation to show students current pictures of Michigan Stadium and its ongoing construction. Cunningham said administrators showed the pictures so students would understand the University’s position.
“We wanted to give them as much information as we could,” Cunningham said.
Asked whether she thought the pictures had any impact on students and their disappointment with the situation, Cunningham replied with a simple “no.”
One student demanded to know why University President Mary Sue Coleman wasn’t at the meeting. Harper said Coleman was busy with other University business.
LSA senior Sophia Johnson was frustrated by the administrators’ responses, saying that the football team appears to be more of a priority than the class of 2008.
“You guys would move heaven and earth if we were three months away from the season opener right now,” Johnson said. “We would not be playing a football game at Eastern.”
Many students at the meeting said the University should pay whatever it takes to hold graduation at Michigan Stadium, something that Harper said is not a realistic option.
“I think there’s a reasonable point where we all would say ‘That’s too much,’ ” Harper said. “What that point is, I don’t know.”
Hank Baier, associate vice president of facilities and operations, said the Board of Regents and Coleman would likely be the ones to judge how much is too much.