VCU students, parents, alumni express frustration over canceled departmental graduations

Students were told by email on Wednesday that there would be no individual, department-level graduation ceremonies for the College of Humanities and Sciences. CT file photo

Eduardo Acevedo, Contributing Writer

Hannah Eason, News Editor

When senior Kelsey Ott saw an email about graduation, she thought the message contained details about her departmental ceremony. The forensic science major said she was “frustrated and devastated” to read that departmental ceremonies for the College of Humanities and Sciences had been canceled.

Don Young, interim dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences, notified students by email on Wednesday that there would be no individual, department-level graduation ceremonies for the College of Humanities and Sciences.

Young described the announcement as “exciting” in his email and outlined how the ceremony will take place. Instead of departmental ceremonies, more than 1,200 graduates will attend an approximately two-hour ceremony for their diplomas.

“It’s a coming of age and a reward for your years of hard work,” Ott said in an email. “This is a ceremony we all look forward to from our first day of college. This is a very important event to both me and my family. It’s been a long journey to get to where I am now.”

Ott said she was disappointed over what she calls a “lack of attention” from the administration to questions and concerns expressed by students.

“If you have the students sprint across the stage with 6 seconds each that might work,” Ott said. “But that means there would be no time for all 1,200 students to walk in and be seated and no time for speakers which is just not feasible.”

Senior mass communications major Adam Cheek created a petition on the website change.org in an attempt to get the College of Humanities and Sciences to restore departmental graduations. Cheek is a staff writer for the sports section of The Commonwealth Times. 

Over 1,400 users have signed the petition.

According to Cheek’s petition, VCU’s plans to merge the departments turn the ceremony “into something generic and less special.”

Tatem Crenshaw, who graduated last spring after studying elementary education, said individual ceremonies would be more “intimate,” and a larger ceremony would be “rushed, crowded, and difficult to sit through.”

“Students get closer with the people in their majors each semester,” Crenshaw said in a Facebook message. “And it’s nice to be able to celebrate your achievements with your peers who have been through the same courses.”

Crenshaw said some of her older family members, like her grandparents, would have difficulties in longer ceremonies because of health issues.

A list of schools, departments, centers, institutes and programs under the College of Humanities and Sciences can be found here.

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