Undergraduate commencement schedule hinders students

The commencement schedule looks different than usual this year for the Class of 2024. With the spring semester concluding on May 15, around a week later than is typical, the undergraduate commencement ceremony and celebratory activities have been pushed back, too.

Undergraduate commencement, located at the Prudential Center in Newark every year, is planned for the morning of May 29, two weeks after the semester ends. Arching Day — where graduates will walk through the Arch to commemorate their end at Ramapo — will also be occurring over a week after the semester’s conclusion, on May 23.

“The date of the [commencement] ceremony is largely subject to the [Prudential Center]’s availability. While we had originally hoped for an earlier date, we also wanted to avoid a date that might conflict with the Memorial Day holiday,” Chief of Staff and Vice President for Policy, Research & Governance Brittany Williams-Goldstein stated in an email. “When May 29 was provided to us, we treated it as an invitation to create more opportunities to celebrate the Class of 2024.”

At the end of February, seniors received a survey via email asking “how [they] want to be celebrated.” It included questions asking whether seniors prefer a laid-back Grad50, “Club Potter” or Senior Prom celebration, whether they’re interested in attending a “Senior Send Off” trip to Atlantic City — which will return for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic — and what kind of pre-commencement Senior Celebration they prefer.

“We explored the prom idea because this is the class that did not get to have their senior prom due to COVID,” Associate Director of the Center for Student Involvement Eddie Seavers stated over email. Grad50 won the survey, however, and took place on April 8, kicking off a “series of events across the final 50 days of the undergraduate experience at Ramapo for graduates.”

While Williams-Goldstein shared that her office has only fielded questions about the reasoning for the later commencement date, some seniors have strong opinions about the changes.

Senior Katelyn Downs wishes that undergraduates had received a clearer explanation as to why commencement is later this year. “If we got an explanation, maybe it’d be less frustrating,” she said in an interview.

The schedule is causing issues for students for multiple reasons. Senior nursing major Jessica Fearon said her schedule is thrown off because nursing students are not allowed to take the required ​​National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) until after commencement.

“Because [commencement] is booked later, I can’t take [the NCLEX] on time, so I’m very frustrated… because I can’t move on and progress,” she said.

International students are also facing complications. Senior Suraj Neupane, who hails from Nepal, said that the two-week gap leaves international students struggling to find a place to stay.

“A lot of us, we don’t have anywhere else to go between those times,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a really great idea for them to do that because people will be moving, especially for international students.”

Neupane said that international students have been asking the Office of Residence Life (ORL) to accommodate them. ORL has recently announced summer interim housing from May 16-29 with a nearly $500 price tag for any students with no other housing options during that period.

As for the extra celebratory events, most of the seniors interviewed expressed disinterest or weren’t aware of them.
“I just think they’re kind of trying to kill time because they didn’t book [commencement] earlier,” Fearon said.

Williams-Goldstein wants seniors to remember that all Ramapo wants to do is celebrate them, their achievements and their resilience, especially because of the difficult circumstances presented by the pandemic four years ago.

“I hope that members of the graduating class keep top of mind that they have a unique and wildly impressive capacity to not just adjust to change and uncertainty but to thrive in it– and that capacity will serve them very well for a very long time,” she stated.




Featured photo courtesy of Kimberly Ventresca