Students protest May 2019 commencement cancellation

The May 2019 graduating class will not have a University-sponsored commencement ceremony after the University administration was unable to find a new location. The ceremony had been held in the Richmond Coliseum the past 46 years. Photo by Erin Edgerton

Zach Joachim, Executive Editor

Georgia Geen, Managing Editor

VCU will not host a university-wide commencement ceremony for May 2019 graduates after the administration failed to secure a venue.

The Richmond Coliseum has hosted spring commencement for 46 years. But the venue is not booking events past December. President Rao wrote in a letter to students and faculty explaining the administration’s decision.

“We explored several alternative venues across the region, but all were unavailable because of cost, size or access,” Rao wrote.

A protest was planned the day of the announcement for Wednesday afternoon. Protest organizer Kaylin Cecchini, a junior double majoring in political science and philosophy, said the decision is insensitive to the graduating class.

“This cancellation feels like a slap in the face to the class of 2019 and their accomplishments and hard work, as well as the time and effort they have put forth into our community,” Cecchini said. “This is a moment we all work toward, where we are able to graduate in front of our loved ones and experience the pride of this accomplishment.”

The protest was scheduled to take place in front of the president’s office at 910 W. Franklin St. from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to its Facebook event page.

“This is going to serve as a drumbeat event to a larger protest against the broader administrative master plan of irresponsible spending and commencement cancellation,” Cechini said in regard to the ONE VCU draft plan slated to go before the board of visitors in December. “We want VCU to live up to their slogan of ‘One VCU.’ The university has to reinstate the commencement regardless of cost.”

VCU tweeted Tuesday that funds which would have been spent on the university-wide ceremony will instead be used to “augment the college and school ceremonies to ensure they meet a consistent standard of excellence.” This includes making the official university commencement program — which names each graduate — available at every ceremony, among other “enhancements.”

Senior political science major Caitlin Poos said she is frustrated by the decision.

“The fact that I hurried through college and now I don’t even get a true ceremony is super upsetting,” Poos said. “Plus, it felt like VCU’s response was basically saying, ‘oh, well.’”

Though individual department ceremonies will still take place — which the university described as “well-attended” in its statement — Poos said only attending the smaller ceremonies will affect the number of family members she can invite. She said she will not be able to bring her grandparents or boyfriend; only her parents and siblings will be in attendance.

“On a larger scale, [the commencement cancellation] reflects the administration’s continued lack of consideration for the students’ welfare,” Cecchini said.

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