Patterson reaches agreement for Commencement

Parker H. Petit Field at Georgia State Stadium | Photo by Vanessa Johnson

After meeting with Georgia State’s Division of Student Affairs and speaking with Georgia State University President Mark Becker, graduating students within the College of Arts and Sciences are now getting the recognition that they had hoped for. A recognition ceremony will occur on Sunday, May 20 at 2 p.m. in the GSU Sports Arena.

On Thursday, May 10, the Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony was abruptly cut short following the threat of rain and lightning near Georgia State Stadium. Student backlash was intense after the “abbreviated” ceremony, resulting in a widely-spread petition on social media to redo the event.

The amount of student action was noticed by newly-elected Student Government Association President Franklin Patterson, who said that one of his administration’s main priorities is to facilitate better communication between students, SGA and faculty. He wanted to attend the ceremony to see what could be improved with Executive Vice President Ayesha Iqbal, but when they arrived it had already concluded.

Franklin Patterson was elected SGA President for the 2018-2019 academic year. Photo by Vanessa Johnson | The Signal

“We had also learned later that night that there was a petition going around to redo the ceremony. I personally reached out to [the author of the petition] Brooklyn to see if there was anything we could personally do as SGA,” Patterson said.

Patterson said he was contacted by another student and was asked how SGA is representing the student voice in this decision. He said he then reached out to the administration and worked with Iqbal to draft a plan, specifically with Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Douglass F. Covey.

“I personally met with Dr. Covey, who is our VP of student affairs, to discuss options of what we could do as SGA, as a proposal, to bring to President Becker in terms of what we could do,” Patterson said. “We went through options of reimbursement, of doing the whole ceremony back in Georgia State Stadium, but we realized all of these would cause future problems.”

Despite this, Patterson said his concern was, “How do we meet the needs of the students?”

He said that the students were simply missing the “pomp and circumstance” of a full ceremony. Andrea Jones, Associate Vice President for Public Relations and Marketing Communications, said that the students had already graduated and the new ceremony is just to recognize the students individually.

“The recognition ceremony is being run by the College of Arts and Sciences,” Jones said. “At the shortened ceremony, the degrees were conferred. So the official business of the university occurred at the ceremony. So they turned their tassels and the degrees were conferred upon them. So what this ceremony is is really allowing students to have their moments to walk across the stage in front of their friends and family and to take pride in their accomplishments.”

Jones said that the ceremony isn’t a makeup ceremony but rather an opportunity for the students to be properly recognized.

Sophia Marchese, one of the students who graduated, said she is “grateful [for] the university’s decision to have the recognition ceremony.”

“We hoped for a reschedule. We had been advocating in numbers to push for it. So I’m just really relieved that SGA and President Becker reached a decision that upheld the integrity and traditions of Georgia State. I think that after what happened, something had to be done,” Marchese said.