Award-winning, student-run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield

The Observer

Award-winning, student-run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield

The Observer

Award-winning, student-run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield

The Observer


The Discontent of Graduation Among Students


Let’s pretend it’s March of 2020. You’re a senior in high school who just received the news that due to the COVID pandemic spring break is canceled. Then the rest of the year is canceled leading up to your graduation. When you think there is going to be a compromise, you learn that you will be given your diploma through your car window as you drive past all the teachers and faculty you spent the last four years of your life getting to know. You take one last look at your high school through the rearview mirror and realize that you never got to properly say goodbye. Fast forward to 2024, when you’re a senior in college, ready to undergo your first proper graduation. You then receive the news that you’re not graduating with your friends, and instead you will all be “walking” at separate times.

This is the reality for the current class of 2024 graduating from the University of Illinois at Springfield. The university is hosting three different commencement ceremonies. The first will be Friday, May 10 at 7 p.m. for the College of Health, Science and Technology, the next morning on Saturday, May 11th at 10 a.m. for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences as well as the College of Public Affairs and Education. To follow them all will be the final commencement set for 3 p.m. that same day for the College of Business and Management. While having different commencement ceremonies for graduation may seem normal, this is the first year that this will be the case at UIS since 2008, which is as far back as UIS has released commencement records. Past students have graduated together, allowing friends to see each other as well as any friends or family being able to attend, without a cap on numbers. In those previous years, the commencement ceremony was held at the Bank of Springfield Center – now the separate ceremonies will all be held on campus at the Performing Arts Center.

The change of venue is where many students seem to believe the issue lies. According to an email that Chancellor Gooch sent out, there will be a limit on guests that can attend for each student. There is still not an official number yet, but the concerns are still there. According to the UIS website, PAC has a limit of 2,005 seats. When looking at the number of graduates from 2023, 390 people graduated with just a Bachelor’s degree from the College of  Liberal Arts and Social Sciences as well as the College of Public Affairs and Education. Since these two will be held at the same time it is imperative to look at their numbers. Keep in mind this does not include master’s students graduating from these colleges. If the students sit in the auditorium seats it brings the limit down to 1615 seats available for guests. With these rough estimates, that would equal four guests per student. This means the students’ concerns are valid, especially considering all of the vague statements from Chancellor Gooch.

Students are concerned that this number will be so small their whole family cannot attend.

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UIS senior Aubrie Mozingo has already invited at least a dozen people. “If they were to limit my tickets then I would have to tell people like my grandparents that they can’t come see me graduate.” For Aubrie, “this has all felt like a huge slap in the face. Why would my family drive two and a half hours to sit in a room where it is televised rather than the comfort of their home? It is disrespectful to us.” If people exceed the amount of people allowed there will be overflow rooms to watch the livestream, according to Gooch. They can watch the graduation on a screen just like they did in 2020. Jade Aubrey, also a senior at UIS believes that “it is just another diss on the class of 2020 – our graduation was robbed from us four years ago and here we are fighting a similar battle.”

Students are not only concerned about the number of people who can attend. They also have concerns about much more, including a sense of trivialization implied by the venue. Mozingo believes that having the ceremony on campus “normalizes such a special event. I have class at the Performing Arts Center three times a week and I feel that while it is special that I had my classes there, it minimizes something that should be held in a higher esteem.”

With so much uncertainty in the air approaching lifetime milestones, students are still feeling unsure about it all. They have tried to voice their thoughts to Chancellor Gooch at a meeting, yet she dismissed them as if there was nothing to be concerned about. If college is truly a time for voices to be discovered and heard, it is hard to do so when the higher-ups walk all over them. While both venues may have their pros and cons it is clear there is a dispute about which one would be better fit for commencement.


Picture and interview with Aubrie Mozingo conducted by Gianna Wolanin

Interview With Jade Aubrey conducted by Ellie Shonkwiler

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