Column: Commencement should be exuberant, despite changes

Illustrations by Devin Phillips

Georgia State has made decisions regarding the Spring 2017 commencement ceremony that has caused many students distress and has forced many students to alter their graduation plans. The changes have frustrated many students, but graduates should not let the alternate commencement plans spoil the significance of the occasion.

In years past, commencement has been held in the Georgia Dome, the facility where Georgia State has played its football games and is also a building that can hold about 70,000 people. With the construction of the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, however, the Georgia Dome is no longer an option – it is set to be imploded. The venue chosen by Georgia State to hold the ceremony is Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion.

While graduating in an arena owned by another university is not ideal on its own, the venue change is even less appealing to students because of the restrictions being placed on how many people are able to attend the ceremony. Due to the limited number of seats in the pavilion, students will only be allowed a maximum of six guest tickets for the event. The limited seating offered by the pavilion has also forced Georgia State to divide the ceremony between two different days, May 8 and 9.

These changes have sparked frustration among this year’s graduating class. According to a story recently published by The Signal, some students have started a petition to restore the tradition of having one university-wide commencement ceremony. While this may happen in the future when commencement is held at the Georgia State Stadium facility, Georgia State representatives said in the same story that it is not possible this year.

Maintaining Significance

The possibility of not being able to bring your entire family to your college graduation ceremony is a difficult reality to face, and facing that reality while having to graduate at a different university with only a select amount of your classmates does not make it any better. But while these changes are frustrating to many students, they should not tarnish an event that plays such a significant role in the lives of the many the students that will be receiving a diploma.

Thirty percent of Georgia State’s student body is made up of first-generation college students. A large portion of the students graduating will be the first in their family to accomplish the feat of obtaining a college degree. While those students are likely frustrated with the changes as well, the Georgia State student body should not let the inconveniences presented by the venue switch diminish the value of the ceremony to those who worked tirelessly to earn the right to participate in it. The same level of joy should be put into this commencement ceremony as any other.

Those who have come from a background which does not typically allow for a college graduation deserve to bask in an exuberant ceremony filled with people who are ecstatic to be participating, not a ceremony that many

Georgia State is a university which prides itself in the success of its minority and underprivileged students. According to a recent Georgia State press release, Georgia State ranks number one in the nation in awarding bachelor’s degrees to African-American students. The commencement ceremony is a time when this accomplishment can be honored and those involved have an opportunity to be recognized for their achievements. Students participating in the ceremony should not let the shadow of the unfortunate changes made to this year’s ceremony dampen the significance of the event.

While the decisions which had to be made regarding the commencement ceremony are not pleasant for graduates and can make graduation planning more difficult for many, the decisions made should not take away from the importance of the event in the lives of the students participating in it.


Changes to commencement:

  • Venue will be McCammish Pavilion at Georgia Tech
  • Students will be allotted only six guest tickets
  • There will not be a university wide-ceremony
  • Separate ceremonies will take place over a two-day period