With the 2017 undergraduate commencement just eight months away, SUNY New Paltz administration has announced that the college will now host two main undergraduate ceremonies instead of one.
The two ceremonies will be held on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at 10 a.m. and Sunday, May 21, 2017 at 10 a.m., as annnounced in a campus-wide email by college president Donald Christian. The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences will graduate at the Saturday ceremony, while the Schools of Science & Engineering; Business; Education and Fine & Performing Arts will take the Sunday slot. Both ceremonies will be held on the Old Main Quad.
This news comes as administration and campus facilities face record attendance on commencement day— Christian said the 2016 ceremony brought between 9,000 and 10,000 people to campus, resulting in major roadway congestion and stand-still traffic in and around the college.
“The additional participating graduates and their families and friends have added to the celebratory atmosphere of the event, but peak participation has also brought new logistical challenges,” Christian said in the email. “This is the largest single gathering of the campus community and guests, and the safety and security of the event continue to be among our top priorities.”
In addition to meeting with numerous campus stakeholders, including University Police and senior campus leaders, Christian said administrators also met with local community leaders over the summer to discuss the change, including New Paltz Police and Fire departments, Village Mayor Tim Rogers and Town Supervisor Neil Bettez.
“These external stakeholders expressed support for this change and agreed that two busy mornings on a May weekend was a much better approach than one congested and overcrowded day,” Christian said.
Despite the assumed lighter traffic forecast for graduation weekend, the change has been a source of major disappointment for some seniors wishing to spend the ceremony next to their friends.
This was the case for fourth-year biology major Cassandra Goldman, who will now be split up from many of her friends during the ceremony due to having different majors.
“I think they [administration] believe they are doing something to help us, but they’re forgetting how the celebration is as much about graduating academically as it is graduating from four years of relationships and friendships,” Goldman said.
Fourth-year English major Nicole Simonelli said she felt similarly when hearing about the change.
“When I found out I wouldn’t be walking with [my best friend] just because we didn’t decide on the same major four years back, you can bet I hysterically cried,” Simonelli said. “I haven’t asked much from this school, but for them to take away the last thing they could have given me: my friends on graduation… I am not happy.”
For more information on these changes, visit newpaltz.edu/commencement.