On Thursday, Nov. 7, Chancellor Kim. A Wilcox sent a campuswide email updating the campus on their continuing deliberations regarding commencement ceremonies for 2020.
In June, Wilcox sent an email to the campus stating that in surveying students after commencement each year, their primary feedback has been to move the ceremonies indoors and to shorten the length. Wilcox also stated that the venue poses additional challenges: uneven sight lines to the stage and video monitors, umbrellas, hats and other items that obstruct views, crowd control issues and misuse of alcohol and other substances.
In October, Wilcox sent another update to the campus which stated that in order to address repeated concerns from graduates and families regarding the above concerns, UCR’s formal commencement ceremonies would be held at the Toyota Arena in Ontario. In response to student feedback, names would be individually announced as students walk across the stage. Wilcox also noted that these ceremonies would also include many of UCR’s traditions, including the Pipe Band and graduate procession. They would plan to hold all three campuswide ceremonies in a single day during the weekend, rather than over a five or six day period, which he stated can be challenging for family and friends who work during the week.
In his Nov. 7 message to the campus, Wilcox announced that they have continued to engage in multiple discussions with undergraduate and graduate students (including ASUCR and GSA), academic department chairs, Staff Assembly and the Academic Senate’s Executive Council.
Wilcox emphasized that the campus community is deeply committed to all of its students’ success. “Commencement represents a significant opportunity for all of us to celebrate our students, as well as an opportunity for each of us to participate in and contribute toward our UCR traditions at the end of each academic year. We should all be proud of this shared commitment to UCR,” stated Wilcox.
In regard to the commencement ceremonies, Wilcox stated that there are multiple aspects that help determine whether UCR ceremonies are high-quality events that reflect the needs of its distinctive student body. Wilcox wrote that these include, but are not limited to: reading of individual student names, number of tickets available, temperature control, comfortable seating, photography and stage visibility. There are also some limiting factors such as keeping ceremonies under three hours in length, scheduling during weekends and availability of parking, staff and budget, stated Wilcox.
In his message, Wilcox stated that holding several ceremonies off campus at the Toyota Arena in Ontario could help to increase the number of tickets available to each graduate and provide better temperature control and stage visibility for families and friends. “However, some of our students, staff and faculty have described holding off-campus ceremonies as less than ideal, because of the importance of celebrating the UCR experience on campus,” stated Wilcox.
Wilcox then wrote, “Keeping all of our commencement ceremonies on campus is a possibility for 2020, but is not sustainable for the long term.” With increasing graduation rates and steady enrollment growth, Wilcox stated that UCR would need to consider that the number of tickets would be limited even further if ceremonies are held in indoor venues such as the Student Recreation Center, University Lecture Hall, University Theater and the HUB. Additional ceremonies might also involve greater faculty and staff engagement and support than has been the case in the past.
At present, there is no firm decision regarding next year’s commencement, stated Wilcox. He wrote, “As we continue to solicit campus input, I have asked Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Brian Haynes, and CNAS Dean, Kathryn Uhrich, to convene a working group to provide recommendations for commencement in 2020 and in the long term.” The working group will consist of students, staff and faculty, and their plan will be to announce the dates and locations for next spring’s commencement ceremonies before the end of fall quarter.
If students wish to provide input, the deadline for submitting ideas and suggestions to an online form that he links in the email has been extended to Tuesday, November 12.