On Wednesday Oct. 16, ASUCR held its third meeting of fall quarter.
During the meeting, Christine Mata, the dean of students and the vice chancellor of student affairs and Jorge Ancona, the assistant vice chancellor of alumni and constituent relations, spoke on behalf of the Office of Event Management & Protocol in regards to the changes to commencement ceremonies that UCR is implementing this year.
Ancona stated that while commencement normally takes place on Pierce Lawn, uneven ground and obstructed sight lines makes crowd management difficult. He said that holding commencement ceremonies outdoors in the summer time presented issues, as it is often too hot for guests. Ancona added that with UCR’s growing number of students, the length of commencement ceremonies was also presenting issues.
Ancona stated that there would be increased safety and comfort if large ceremonies are moved indoors. He also stated that alternative ways to recognize individual student names to shorten the length of commencement ceremonies may be better than the status quo. According to participant surveys, the top three priorities for commencement are: procession, length of ceremonies and the recognition of individual graduates.
Their proposed plan, which would take effect for the graduating class of 2020, would move commencement from Pierce Lawn at UCR to the Toyota Arena in Ontario, California, which is approximately 20 miles from UCR. In order to shorten the length of the commencement ceremonies, student names at larger ceremonies would no longer be called out as they walk across the graduation stage. Instead, the names of graduating students would be flashed on a banner-like screen as they walk across the stage.
Last year, nine different commencement ceremonies took place. This year, stated Ancona, five ceremonies would take place. The Graduate Division hooding ceremony will be held on May 30 in the Student Recreation Center, following the same format as 2019. The School of Medicine Hippocratic Oath Ceremony will be held on May 29 in the Student Recreation Center, also following the same format as 2019.
In an interview with The Highlander, Ancona stated that there will be three identical university-wide ceremonies, open to all graduates and their families who wish to participate. The ceremonies will be held at Toyota Arena in Ontario on Sunday, June 14 at 9:30 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 6:30 p.m. In addition, there will be a full range of events, receptions and ceremonies on Saturday, June 13, almost all of which will be held in various venues across campus and would provide opportunities for individual recognition of students. A campus-wide Grad and Family Night event will be held for graduates and families by the Bell Tower from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Ancona stated that students from the School of Public Policy and from the Graduate School of Education are being invited to participate in the university-wide ceremonies scheduled to take place at Toyota Arena on Sunday, June 14. He stated, “Additionally, it is our understanding that both schools are planning their own on-campus ceremonies independent of the other in one of the indoor venues on Saturday, June 13.”
In response to these changes, ASUCR President Julian Gonzalez stated, “This honestly makes me less excited for commencement. My graduating class is being used as a pilot for whether this is going to work or not and I honestly think it is kind of offensive.” Gonzalez then questioned whether the relocation of commencement to the Toyota Arena was already set in stone, to which Ancona stated that it was. Gonzalez also stated, “It’s concerning that we were not asked about a venue. I can probably speak for every fourth year by saying that I do not want commencement in Ontario. I want my commencement near the Bell Tower. That is where I lived for the past four years. There should have been more open communication about a venue.”
When Gonzalez questioned Ancona about how large the increase in graduating students this year compared to last year, Ancona stated, “There was about a 16% increase. We had an unusually large class and increase in transfers in 2016 which is the class that would be graduating this school year in 2020.” In response, Gonzalez stated, “A lot of students heard about this through rumors. The student body is constantly being blindsided by things that impact us just like the decision to build a STEM high school and I’m sure that a contract has already been signed to hold commencement at the Toyota Arena. This is going to affect what students have been working towards for four years. I am offended and I will make sure that this new plan does not take place.”
Executive Vice President Abigail Cortes then questioned Ancona and Mata and stated, “Is there any way we can at least keep the calling of names as part of the ceremony?” Ancona answered, “That would prove to be challenging, we are talking about a three to three and a half hour ceremony. I don’t know that it is physically possible.”
After Ancona and Mata finished their presentation, the meeting moved on to committee reports. The finance meeting minutes for Oct. 14 and Oct. 16 were both approved 13-0-1 and 14-0-0. The GCAP meeting minutes and allocations were approved 14-0-0. The senate also approved SR-F19-011: Resolution in support of advocacy and outreach efforts for the 2020 U.S. Census. This resolution, which was presented by Eric Calderon, the transfer/non-traditional director, would promote on-campus education about the census, which is taking place on April 1. The resolution was passed 14-0-0.
The senate also passed SR-F19-012: Revising Chapter II section III — ASUCR Senator Qualification 14-0-0. This revision would make it clear in the ASUCR bylaws that a GPA of 2.5 is required for ASUCR senators and if they failed to maintain this GPA, they would have to step down and then the runner-up from the ASUCR elections would take their place. President Pro Tempore Preeti Juturu stated that while these requirements were outlined in the ASUCR constitution, they were not outlined in the ASUCR bylaws. This change would now layout these requirements in the bylaws.
During Ex-Officio Reports, Gonzalez took the stage to readdress the commencement changes that Ancona and Mata presented. Gonzalez stated, “I honestly thought that they were coming in to speak to us today to ask our opinion. I had no idea this was set in stone. I am going to make sure that these changes do not happen. They blindsided us on this and they keep blindsiding us on things. I want to request an emergency meeting with the chancellor. Expect a formal statement from me speaking out against this soon.”
During Roundtable and Announcements, EVP Cortes stated that there is a CHASS Senator vacancy and that they are awaiting a response from the runner-up to see if they would fulfill the vacancy. The circumstances surrounding the vacancy are unclear. The meeting was adjourned at 8:10 p.m.
On Oct. 18, Julian Gonzalez released an official statement on the proposal changes to the 2020 UCR commencement. In the statement, Gonzalez wrote, “I am offended by the fact that our campus intentionally leaves students out of important decisions because they know we would fight back … this is a genuine disregard for the hard work and investments we and our families have given since the day we stepped foot onto the campus.”
In addition to the official statement, Gonzalez also created a petition on change.org that, at time of writing, has approximately 14,600 signatures. In the petition, which is titled “Embracing Tradition for UCR Commencement,” Gonzalez wrote, “Please show your support to keep the traditional location and ceremony and for those classes that follow by signing your name to this petition.”