Students react to changes to commencement


Monica Sarmiento and Kenise Brown

Update (3/28/19): Dr. Henderson informed the community in a March 28 email that there will be one large Commencement ceremony at the Prudential Center on May 16. Students will have their individual names called and all guests will be welcome. Read here.

Students learned of changes being made to the NJCU’s commencement ceremony this week and many are not happy with the administration’s decisions.

A petition titled “NJCU Graduates Should Walk For Commencement 5/16/19,” was created on Wednesday, March 20. The petition, which at the time of publishing has amassed over 2,600 signatures, stated “For the May 16, 2019 Commencement Ceremony, New Jersey City University President and the Commencement Committee have decided, unbeknownst to the Graduating Student Body, that they will NOT give the Graduates the honor of marching into the Prudential Center nor will the Graduates have the Privilege to take their individual honorable walk across the stage while having their names announced.”

Rumors regarding these decisions began circulating amongst students, especially on the Instagram page dedicated to NJCU’s senior class, @njcu_senior_class. Hundreds of comments were left by angry students on Instagram posts that have now been removed. The page owners claim that all of their posts were reported.

Suehaydee Rosa, a student majoring in Digital Design and Illustration, wrote, “It would be great to get some answers from Ms. Henderson, because it sounds to me like they’re trying to minimize the cost of a proper graduation experience and for what? Who’s pockets will it end up in?”

Student Government President, Rania Noubani, said that she may know why the change occurred. “Among the possible reasons for the change could be the amount of students graduating and how the long the ceremony would be. Personally, I don’t mind this change but I want to question the administration why they want to and how they are doing it.”

In an email from NJCU Communications, an official statement was made addressing the changes to commencement, clearing up some confusion.

Beginning this May, the University will implement a series of smaller, college-based ceremonies held at various locations on campus, in addition to the large, formal, degree-conferring ceremony held at the Prudential Center.  The time for this evolution has come. The growth in the number of degrees NJCU confers annually is a testament to our positive trajectory. While this change will put us in line with our sister institutions, it will, more importantly, provide our students and parents the benefit of the pageantry of the grand ceremony coupled with the intimacy of the smaller, college-based ceremonies.”

The NJCU Commencement website will be updated with more information about the ceremonies.

Senior Class President Nickia Williams responded to the commencement issue in an email to President Henderson. Williams said that having separate ceremonies prevents students from enjoying the moment with other students who are graduating. “The idea having several concurrent ceremonies precludes us from celebrating with our academically diverse group of friends, we’ve met over our past few years at NJCU. We do not want to miss the opportunity of seeing each other in this space of success.”

Williams said that seniors were sent a survey in February that asked if they preferred one large commencement ceremony at the Prudential Center in Newark or smaller department ceremonies.

“We have conducted an online survey discussing the thought and decision to have two ceremonies. As of right now over 70% of the students surveyed would prefer one ceremony at Prudential. Furthermore, our survey results had shown that 90% of the students would also prefer to hear their names called during a larger ceremony. We have committed ourselves to our studies and our success, and we feel that those who have supported us deserve to feel the pride that we will feel in hearing our names at one of the biggest events in most of our lives.”

Students react to the changes

Senior Roshniben Patel, an Accounting major, was unaware of this issue and does not agree with it.

“I think we should be allowed to bring more people at our graduation because I am an international student and my parents are thinking to attend the ceremony. It’s a big day for us,” Patel said.

Senior Landy Odige, Psychology major, feels like the school should do a better job to serve the students.

“It’s a huge day for us. We shed blood, sweat, and tears for this moment. I feel like it’s a slap in the face. We worked hard for this. Many students wants to graduate with their friends, peers and more than just two people from each family to see us walk the stage. There’s so many people who [have] been there for us during our college years and should see us walk the stage to not just know that every student made it to graduating college but each person who contribute to making it happen for us which are family and friends.”

SGO member Lauren Deieso thinks this could be fair for students who are among the last to walk the stage. “People at the end names aren’t respected because everyone tends to be worn out. So now they’ll have the ability to be fully recognized. Although I did hear that there won’t be pictures taken and I’m not a fan of that.”

An anonymous graduate student said that it’s important for students to hear their names called at graduation. “A lot of students getting their names called out during graduation and walking the stage is what keeps them going. It keeps them motivated. Not doing that is ripping the spirit out of their entire college years,” they said.

The student continued to say that there may be a reason why this is happening.

“A theory that I have that may be the reason for all of this, is that they are trying to be efficient as possible and just want their guest speakers to have more time. They are focused on their donors.”

On Tuesday, March 26th at 3 p.m., the Senior class will be having a meeting with President Sue Henderson and administration regarding the commencement. A location for the meeting has yet to be announced.

The Gothic Times has reached out to President Henderson but has yet to receive a comment. This story will be updated as we receive more information from administration.

Do you want to comment on NJCU’s change for commencement? The Gothic Times wants to hear from you. Email Monica Sarmiento, Editor-in-Chief, at [email protected] or Kenise Brown, News Editor, at [email protected].