Commencement Tickets Cut Back

Published: March 11, 2009 | Read Time: 4 minutes

After three hours of deliberations over two weekly meetings, the Southern Utah University Commencement Committee has decided that the only fair way to treat each member of this year’s graduating class is to cut the number of tickets each graduate receives to the University’s main ceremony, featuring keynote speaker LDS President Thomas S. Monson, from three to two. 

According to SUU’s Commencement Committee Chair and Vice President of University Relations Dean O’Driscoll, the University is experiencing “growing pains.” O’Driscoll continues, “Our graduating class grew by an astonishing rate of more than 11 percent in a single year, and since we haven’t added any seats to the Centrum to accommodate larger crowds, we must do our best to ensure every graduate has a fair chance to participate in all the festivities and to share that experience with their loved ones.” 

In February, the commencement committee announced that each graduate would be issued three tickets for family and friends to the University-wide ceremony. In the next few weeks two things happened: 1) The size of the 2009 graduating class continued to grow as application paperwork continued to be processed, and 2) the interest level among graduates to attend the ceremony increased. 

Vice President O’Driscoll stated, “We’re dealing with two growth factors that we’ve never seen before. Our graduating class is about 200 students larger than last year—1,741 compared to 1,535 in 2008. Also, the percentage of students who plan to don a cap and gown and march Saturday morning is at unprecedented levels.” 

Last year approximately 61 percent of the students who were qualified to graduate actually marched into the Centrum for the main ceremony. That percentage followed a longstanding trend in terms of student participation in this main ceremony. However, According to a survey of 2009 graduates, this year’s percentage of seniors planning to participate in the processional and attend the main commencement ceremony in May seems to be well beyond that 60 percent range, by as much as 20 percent or more. 

The committee is working hard to make sure there is ample overflow seating in other venues around campus and around town. There may be a combined total of 5,000 or more seats in other buildings broadcasting the event live on large screens. Also, the local community can watch this commencement address in the comfort of their own home, as it will be broadcast live at 9 a.m. on SUTV Cable-9. 

The ceremony will also be broadcast live through both SUTV and KSUU Power 91 on the web at 

“Let’s face it,” said O’Driscoll, “It’s a great problem to have. Who wouldn’t like to host an event in the Centrum that has guests vying for every seat in the building? I know athletics, concerts and student activities would love to face that problem. As difficult and disappointing as this decision was to only allow each graduate to have two tickets for their family and friends, as a University, we are excited that we have a commencement speaker that people are really excited about.” 

The committee has spent a large majority if its meeting time recently discussing and considering several alternatives to deal with this year’s demand but kept coming back to the idea that every graduate must be entitled to the same chance to get tickets. 

“We didn’t think it would be fair to give an advantage to a student who could stand in line or camp out for tickets for several days, or to a family that could come the night before the event and wait outside the building to get everyone in,” explained O’Driscoll. “First-come, first-served is not fair to everyone and we wanted to avoid that option.” 

The committee realizes there is no real way of knowing how many students are going to march on May 2 until that morning when graduates show up in their gowns, but they made a decision that would make it possible for all graduates to participate if they so desire. Once ticket distribution is complete on April 17, the committee will evaluate what remaining tickets there might be and decide how to distribute any extras to the graduates. 

As a reminder, students are not limited to the number of guests who will be able to watch them receive their diploma, as that will happen in the six college convocations – not the main commencement ceremony. Tickets are only needed for the main commencement meeting at 9 a.m. on May 2, 2009. The six individual college convocations later in the day are not ticketed and will have no seating restrictions. 

“That is a definite bright spot,” said O’Driscoll. “The moment each graduate walks across the stage, receives their diploma to the cheers of family and friends and gets their picture taken is still open for everyone to attend. We certainly do not want to limit those who have supported our graduates from joining in the celebration of that moment.”

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