Letter to the Editor: Response to Georgia Southern commencement ceremony changes

special education major

Today, as a Georgia Southern Eagle, I am sad.

Yesterday, the news started spreading quickly that the university had decided to change the Spring 2019 Commencement Ceremonies.

A respected professor posted an email sent to faculty on her Facebook explaining the change and that the College of Education, Water College of Health Professions, and Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health would be graduating at the Savannah International Trade and Conference Center on May 10.

This may not sound outrageous to most unless you understand what exactly we, Georgia Southern 2019 graduates, are having taken from us.

Georgia Southern University is located in Statesboro, Georgia which is a little over 50 miles from the establishment in which our graduation will take place. This means that we will make approximately a one-hour drive, with hope of no traffic, to attend one of our biggest days in life thus far. The College of Education was going to have our pinning ceremony, again another major event along with graduation on Friday, May 10, but that will now have to be moved to an earlier date to accommodate the changes made by administration.

Regarding the surface level issues that arise from this, there are many. This news was released to teachers on Jan. 16, 2019 which is less than 4 months from the original day of graduation, May 11.

Families have already reserved hotels that cost them up to $400. Out-of-state and international family members have paid nearly $1,000 if not more for flights to see their graduate’s special day.

Many students do not have cars to transport themselves 50 miles away, so they may have to come up with the money to purchase a taxi, Uber, Lyft, etc.

Please keep in mind, this was announced less than 4 months before graduation! How could the board deciding on this feel as though it would accommodate students, family, and alumni in any form or fashion?

I am appalled at the lack of consideration shown to those who have given so much money, time and effort into this school, but most importantly, I am upset about the emotional impact it will make on colleagues and myself.

To give you the quickest version that I can, I feel robbed. In 2018, I attended my roommate and dear friend’s graduation at Paulson Stadium at Georgia Southern University.

It was awesome sitting there in anticipation surrounded with friends and family for her BIG moment!

She was finally going to walk across the stage alongside her friends in different colleges/majors and see Freedom, our very own Georgia Southern eagle, fly as a representation of her soaring into the next chapter of her life.

I have painted this picture of a perfect magical day for you to see everything that my graduation day will not be.

I will not get to look out into the crowd and see my all of my family and friends cheering me on when my name is called because, at the Savannah Convention Center, I will be given a few tickets admitting only the closest of family members.

I will not get to walk across the stage and look out to my friends of different colleges and majors unless they are public health or health profession majors.

Most importantly, I will miss out on one of the greatest Georgia Southern traditions by seeing freedom fly over the stadium and feel that overwhelming, wonderful sense of happiness and accomplishment. I will have none of this experience that I have worked so hard to earn for myself.

Although I have only talked about myself, I am one of many saddened by the news. After speaking to my colleagues, I have heard very upsetting stories.

A good friend of mine is supposed to graduate with her sister, but unfortunately, she will graduate in Savannah while her sister graduates in Statesboro.

Not only are they affected, but the family will have to decide who will attend each of their graduations meaning that a mom or dad may miss seeing their daughter walk across the stage.

Another friend simply decided that she will not walk. Her and her cousin will be at different locations, but she would rather miss her biggest moment, to be a part of graduation on her home campus. As I play these stories over I think to myself… Georgia Southern, is it really worth it?

There has been a petition started and it has obtained over 8,500 signatures in less than 24 hours.

The number of signatures is growing quickly and with that, I have some hope. Hope that we get so much support and can bring light to administration that we are losing a tradition.

We will not stop pleading for change and we will not let this defeat us. Whatever the school may decide, they will not take my special day away from me.

I will graduate and I will be an educator who influences students to advocate for themselves and be the change, just as my teachers and professors have taught me to do.

I pray I will walk across that stage in Paulson Stadium, waving to all of my family and colleagues, and seeing Freedom fly just before throwing my cap into the air.

That is a memory I hope Georgia Southern will not keep me from making.

Do you have an opinion you’d like to share? Email gaeditor@georgiasouthern.edu.