Administration Faces Outrage and Backlash over Commencement Decision

Shelby Farmer

Shelby Farmer

By: Lila Miller, A&E Editor

“If you believe me, if you don’t believe me, I don’t care,” these dismissive words were spoken by Statesboro Student Government Association (SGA) President Jarvis Steele in regard to student outcry at the new commencement changes that are being implemented by the administration of Georgia Southern University (GSU).

The commencement changes are thus: The grand university-wide ceremony where students will be recognized only by their colleges in a stand-up, sit-down manner. The ceremony itself will be held at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro at 9 am on Saturday May 11 as of press time.

Instead of GSU Statesboro students graduating at Paulson Stadium as tradition decrees, some colleges within the university will have to travel to Savannah in order for the student to be recognized individually. And on the other end of the spectrum, with the exception of the Waters College of Health Professions, the College of Education and the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, all individual student acknowledgement will be held in Statesboro rather than in Savannah at the Civic Center.

It comes without surprise that the new commencement changes and announcements were met with considerable student outrage. Last week, The Inkwell tabled in front of the Student Union passing out newspapers in which an article detailing the new commencement changes was included.

Students passing by were also asked their personal thoughts or comments regarding the change. The Inkwell staff assured students that if they wished to remain anonymous that was acceptable.

Out of the many comments received, only one is positive yet vague, “I think it is a great decision.” Many students had more specific concerns and negative feedback, most ranging from disappointment to disdain to profanity.

“Moving commencement to the Statesboro campus seems unnecessary and inconvenient to many students. I have heard from some students here at Armstrong that they are not going to show [sic] to their own graduation because of this.”

Students also had significant issues regarding the timing of not only the announcement made a mere five months before graduation, but the logistics as well.

“When it comes to the spring graduation, I don’t really approve of the split of the majors and the split in location. I am a twin and my family is pretty much forced to travel to both campuses in one day in order to see my sister and my graduation. She studied Health (Armstrong ceremony) and I studied Theatre (Statesboro ceremony), I believe this arrangement makes it hard for people with multiple children [graduates] in different majors.”
“It does not make sense to bring more people to Statesboro for graduation because there are already so many more students who attend Statesboro [campus],” remarked Armstrong student Breanna Burgess.

“I went to Armstrong, I want to graduate from Armstrong.”

“Armstrong [campus] students should be able to be recognized individually and continue having our ceremonies at the Civic Center.”

“As a student on the Armstrong campus, I think Savannah is a beautiful city and anyone would be lucky to graduate here. A post on Twitter went viral, and I see this is a popular issue on both campuses,” wrote Autumn Denonn, a Secondary Education major.

“I’m not ‘returning to the mothership’ for my grad [sic] ceremony. Do you know how much an Uber to Statesboro costs?”

“Based on the Senate meeting on Jan 23, the “student input” that was supposed to be considered were from a small group sworn to confidentiality and then was largely ignored. I don’t think it’s too much to ask the administration about students (who pay huge amounts of money [tuition]) and where they would like to graduate,” wrote Lauren Crisp, an English Communications major set to graduation in May 2019.

As Crisp noted, it is imperative that students are made aware that on the Commencement FAQ page, The University President’s Cabinet stated that the [commencement] decision had been made by a committee comprised of administration and student input.

The Cabinet then contradicts and discredits itself as Executive Vice President Spencer Demink’s new resolution reads, “No members of the Student Government Association Senate, the elected representatives of the Student Body, on any of our three campuses were consulted on the potential changes; The student concerns aired at the State of the University on the Armstrong Campus were promptly ignored by the committee in their decision.”

The new resolution proposed by Demink of the Armstrong and Liberty campuses is being sponsored by Senators Tyack, Leitelt, Wright, McDaniel, Kovach and the Sponsoring Committee: Committee of the Whole. The resolution asks that the commencement decisions be overturned and reversed to the previous traditions that students were accustomed to. Armstrong and Liberty campus students would have their ceremony held in Savannah’s Civic Center and Statesboro students would have theirs held in the Paulson Stadium in Statesboro.

The resolution also highlights the potential financial issues students and their families will face as many travel plans have been derailed, considering the announcement was made a mere five months before the ceremonies are to be held. It is important to acknowledge that,

“[Students] deserve the privilege to graduate from their respective campus at which they have completed their degree, as opposed to an unfamiliar place which is likely to hold no personal value to them;” Demink noted in the resolution.

It must be emphasized that many students are deciding not to pursue Graduate degrees at GSU and will not join the Alumni association after graduation.

If students have any questions or wish to write an opinion piece, please contact Madison Watkins at