Student support preserves a graduation tradition

By Ashley Elder – aelder@unca.edu – Staff Writer | April 15, 2015 |

UNC Asheville administration decided to hold commencement indoors at Kimmel Arena, due to “logistical, safety and financial reasons,” according to the chancellor’s April newsletter. Concerned students said they protested the decision by signing a petition that received more than 1,000 signatures from students, faculty, staff and alumni.

“UNC Asheville is bound to go through growing pains,” said Caitlin Hallorin, UNCA alumna, “but I think it’s really important to preserve traditions whenever possible, especially because we don’t have that many to begin with.”

For the past 50 years, graduation on the Quad has remained a tradition at UNCA, alumni said.

“I’m a member of the ‘damp’ commencement class of May 2012,” Hallorin said. “It was cold. And, well, damp — but mine. My classmates and I still joke about it. My parents laughed about how it was better than heat, and how my brother wore a trash bag,” she said.

According to alumni, weather made the outdoor ceremony impossible on multiple occasions, forcing the event to be moved indoors, but not in the spring of 2012.

“Once it began sprinkling that day, my sister texted me from the audience: ‘Life is about learning to dance in the rain,’” Hallorin said.

Alumni said the Quad gave them their own place on campus to relax, study or spend time with friends.

“When we invite our families to campus to celebrate our accomplishments, we do it because we want to show off our home. The Quad, where I spent years giving tours, studying, having smoothies with friends, never looks better than with all those white chairs facing the library. That’s the image I have when I think about coming home,” she said.

James Whalen, former student body president and graduating senior, said the Quad is the only place every student shares and it serves as a symbol for a united community.

“Commencement should be a celebration of the university,” Whalen said. “We should strive to make that celebration as welcoming as possible to the entire UNC Asheville community, past and present.”

After seeing the petition, Joseph Urgo, provost, sent a one-question poll to seniors via email asking whether they would prefer to graduate on the Quad or in Kimmel Arena.

“UNC Asheville has a history and culture of working together with its students to come to compromises. Discussions about commencement have been exactly the same — everyone wants to put together a plan that is cost-effective, safe, accessible, and best celebrates the university and especially the graduating seniors,” Whalen said.

The poll closed Sunday evening at midnight. Whalen predicted accurately, as Urgo revealed Monday the majority of the class of 2015 chose the Quad.

“I like being outside, I’d like to graduate outside. It’d be nice to be under the sun while sitting through the long ceremony,” said Wes Markusfeld, graduating senior.

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