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Gault Rec. Center confirmed as Commencement venue

Saeed Husain

News Editor

On Thursday, Jan. 31, the senior class at the College received an email from Chief of Staff and Secretary of the College Angela Johnston with details about this year’s tentative Commencement Weekend schedule. According to the email, commencement will take place on Monday, May 13, at the Gault Recreation Center in the Scot Center. 

Following the announcement, students have had strong reactions regarding the location, inspiring yet another Change.org petition (following the one to cancel classes on Wednesday, Jan. 30) titled “We Deserve the Same Graduation Traditions from Previous Years.” The petition was created by an unknown individual, but lists President of the College Sarah Bolton, Dean of Students Scott Brown and Johnston as respondents. 

Comments on the petition online have been critical of the College’s decision to keep Commencement inside the Gault Recreation Center this year. Individuals who are students, alumni and family members of current and past students have requested the College to reconsider its decision. 

Most comments have centered around the fact that the Commencement ceremony in the academic quad in front of Kauke Hall is a core Wooster tradition, and should be experienced by every graduating class unless circumstances such as unideal weather force otherwise. 

Students might recall that last year’s Commencement was also held in the Gault Recreation Center, after rain was forecast for the day of the event. This rendered the traditional location outside to be impractical.Typically, in those circumstances, the College has moved the Commencement ceremony into the Timken Gymnasium at the Armington Physical Education Center (PEC). However, due to the gym being renovated last year, the Gault Recreation Center was chosen as the final location. 

Last year was the first time the event was held at the Gault Recreation Center, and required more planning in order to protect the multipurpose courts and running track. 

In the email sent out to seniors this year regarding the location, Johnston wrote, “We had very positive feedback from students, parents and families about the event last May.” 

In a reply to the Voice, Johnston stated that the feedback was received through an electronic survey which had been sent out to all graduates and their families. Responses were also received through word of mouth and emails. 

“Following the event, we sent out a survey to all graduating seniors and their families and sought feedback — good and bad — about Commencement Weekend overall. Overwhelmingly, the response was very positive,” she said.

Kassady Murphy ’19 felt that the graduating class and their families should have been asked beforehand how they felt about the change in location. She also reflected on her sister’s Commencement ceremony two years ago.

“My sister graduated from here in 2016 outside, and it is a beautiful ceremony. I think it reflects the fact that four years ago our class took our picture on the steps of Kauke. Then after years of hard work we get to return and graduate on the other side. There is sentimental value with doing that. It’s not just getting to walk through the Arch,” she said.

Johnston explained how there is a Commencement Planning Committee with representatives from Facilities, Grounds, Student Affairs, the Provost’s Office, Communications, Advancement (including the Alumni and Parents Program offices), Information Technology, Security and Protective Services (SPS), Dining Services, the Bookstore and the President’s Office. 

The Committee found that regardless of the weather, and the availability of Timken Gymnasium as a rain location, the Gault Recreation Center could better serve the needs of the families and guests who attended. Some of the most important points, as forwarded by Johnston, were as follows:

“• The space is air-conditioned and comfortable; no one has to sit in the hot sun or rain, wind or snow (yes, we have had snow on Commencement day before).  

• The space easily accommodates persons with disabilities and/or mobility issues, which is much more difficult on the lawn.

• Both the ability to see and to hear the ceremony are better in the Scot Center than on the lawn.”

Murphy did not completely agree with the points presented, saying, “One of the other reasons is that it is much easier for those with disabilities. My grandma was wheel chaired in completely fine on the lawn in 2016. I truly believe administration is just working in their best interest.”

Johnston said several students had written to her personally, and that she had written back that the College will take great care to ensure the space reflects the importance and significance of the event. 

“We do understand the disappointment of some seniors this year, especially those who were here last year and heard many seniors express bitter disagreement with the decision not to have an outside ceremony,” she said. 

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