Anger swept the UNC Asheville Class of 2018 Facebook page this week as seniors received an email stating we would each get four tickets for graduation.
To many, only four tickets seemed like the rotten cherry atop the melting sundae that would be graduation in Kimmel Arena. Since the first graduation email was sent out, a number of students petitioned and protested to have the ceremony moved back onto UNCA’s quad.
Ryan McGreal, a senior health and wellness student, was the first to post the petition to move graduation back to the quad earlier this week. CJ Roberts, a senior chemistry and Spanish student, emailed the administration about his — and many others’ — frustrations along with his plan of what could change.
“As a senior, I received the email sent by the Associate Registrar Alicia Shope this afternoon concerning the number to tickets that each graduate will be afforded, four. My fellow graduating students and I would like to formally express our concerns about this,” Roberts wrote in his email.
Roberts wrote that he and other seniors found out previous Kimmel Arena graduations had between five and seven tickets per graduate. But the cClass of 2018 is the largest graduating class in UNCA history, with over 500 students receiving their degrees this May. This could possibly limit the space available to guests, especially to handicapped individuals. Kimmel has a capacity of 3,400, which may give students the chance to obtain six tickets per graduate.
While many had a problem with only receiving four tickets, myself and a quiet minority of seniors felt it was better than none. Some colleges bigger than UNCA only allot students four tickets, and smaller colleges often give fewer. Live streaming of the event is promised for those who cannot fit into the arena, my brother and grandparents already decided to do this to avoid the larger crowd inside or out. This practice may have to be used on the quad with its “unticketed” status possibly equalling thousands on the grassy spot and many who will be in the back with no view of the stage on which we walk.
“The live stream option sounds fantastic to me. I have some small children in my family and I know their parents would be much happier seeing the ceremony from somewhere else where their babies would not be able to disrupt the ceremony,” said Liz Torres, a senior history student.
Torres herself has seven family members planning to attend the ceremony, some traveling from Puerto Rico. She said she found some of the outcry immature.
“I feel like the reaction is blown out of proportion. To me, the backlash is incredibly childish and I haven’t really heard a reason to petition or complain that isn’t selfish or stubborn,” Torres said. “It also upsets me that our entire class is being tied to the backlash because the majority of people who I interact with could not care less about where the ceremony is.”
Similarly to Torres, I found some of the demands being made were selfish, a few students alluding to the possibility of having entourages that reached double digits. There is no need for every single aunt and uncle to attend the ceremony, but grandparents are understandable guests many students include on their special days that will make the four ticket limit a tight squeeze. I have a large extended family, but just like in high school, only a select few will be at graduation — grandparents and godparents at best. My celebration does not have to be May 12 at 9 a.m. in order for my accomplishments to be commemorated. And with my brother graduating high school in the middle of June, it will be pushed back until July for the joint party my mom’s planned since I started at UNCA.
The limit of four guests also becomes tricky for those with separated parents or more than a single sibling, a concern befalling a few classmates I know personally. Senior political science student Arlen Millner said her choice would be down to her father or brother, two people she was not comfortable choosing between.
The petition to return graduation to the quad spread by McGreal reached 1,095 signatures by Thursday, the day after Urgo emailed the seniors an apology for the dismay caused by the announcement and a renouncement of graduation taking place in Kimmel. Many seniors took to the Facebook page to celebrate, digital screams of victory flooding the page almost immediately after the email was read.
Yet, this was not enough for some seniors. Roberts and Ben House, a senior atmospheric science student, are both working on plans for rain not involving the use of Kimmel.
House discussed weatherproofing the quad in the event of rain, but in my opinion tents would obstruct views of the stage for many and take away from your relatives seeing your brisk walk across the stage. Roberts suggested the possibility of UNCA moving graduation back to May 13 in order to use the U.S. Cellular Center downtown, or switching venues with Asheville-Buncombe Technical College. A-B Tech reserved the event center for our scheduled graduation date two years in advance. Torres and Millner both disagree with this “plan.”
“I think that’s just ridiculous. Many people are complaining about the move to Kimmel because it impedes family plans and plane tickets have already been bought, so moving it back a day and moving it off campus just sounds like a worse alternative,” Torres said. “While I am not attached to where on campus the ceremony will be, I am attached to the idea of having the ceremony on campus. This is where I’ve spent the majority of the past four years, this is where I have put in the work, so this is where I would like to have that recognized.”
This sentiment is one I get behind 100 percent. As the 90th anniversary class, our graduation should take place somewhere on campus — indoors or outside. To make us move it back a day, thus giving our families hotel and plane fees to pay in order to rearrange our plans, is inconsiderate. To do all this for some who feel they need — or deserve — more guests at the ceremony is thoughtless.
Roberts stated on the Facebook page the fee for use at the Cellular Center reaches $3,500, something he is either planning to crowdfund with help from angry parents and students or pay himself if need be — so long as he gets reimbursed. To me, paying for a place to graduate is a waste when the quad and Kimmel are both free and campus has more available parking than downtown. The suggestion of shuttling people to the event center, also voiced by students in favor of the venue move, is impractical. If we each increase the number of guests we have to what the Cellular Center can hold, it could take hours to shuttle them all to the event — thus putting another wrench into the university’s and other students’ plans for the day.
A group of seniors discussed taking their plans to Urgo and administration on Monday. It is very unclear if they will give in to this greater demand of moving off campus. I am one of many seniors not in favor of the move. Only time can tell where we will actually get our degrees.