After University administration canceled the 132nd University-wide commencement Saturday because of weather and safety concerns, graduates took to social media and planned their own celebration.
Radio-television-film graduate Marshall Kistner said he started the Facebook event for the student-run commencement after he and many others were disappointed with the University's cancellation. Kistner said he posted on the Class of 2015 Facebook page Saturday night to see whether anyone wanted to go watch the fireworks before they were canceled, and that eventually sparked the unofficial commencement event.
“Of course, that [the planned fireworks display Saturday] was canceled as well, so someone on my Facebook post said to start a Facebook event,” Kistner said. “Within 2 hours of posting, there were almost 1,000 people invited, and many said they were attending."
Fireworks still lit the sky 10 p.m. Sunday, as the University planned.
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Kistner said Student Government President Xavier Rotnofsky jumped on board with the event as it was being put together because of their three years together at the Texas Travesty, UT's student-run humor publication.
Communication studies graduate Ignacio Cruz said, since he is the first person in his family to graduate from college, he wanted commencement the way it was suppose to be. However, Cruz said he was still excited about the unofficial commencement.
“I am so excited to be attending the unofficial commencement tonight,” Cruz said. “It goes to show our unity as a campus. Tonight it will be special — it’s a moment I’ve been waiting years for.”
Outgoing SG President Kori Rady gave a shorter version of his speech from the night before, and President William Powers Jr. came on short notice to give his final speech as president at commencement.
“I called President Powers’s spokesperson and told him needed Powers right away,” Rady said. “To his credit, even though he was at a wedding, Powers came when we needed his help.”
As Powers spoke, he said this event shows what UT students are all about.
“I can’t believe the crowd we have tonight and the organization … this is what students at the University of Texas are all about,” Powers said. “This tenure with you all has been the blessing of my life. You all are the very best students in America.”
Students also listened to the jazz band, Interrobang, which was called up in the spur of the moment because of a band member’s friend.
“Early on, a friend of [a band member] in communications asked him if we could perform for the School of Communications,” said Sung June Lee, who plays the trombone in the band. “It was not until we got here that we realized we would be performing in front of the Tower.”
All the members in the band said this was the largest crowd they performed in front of, and the experience was surreal.
Kistner said Saturday was heartbreaking for a lot of people, but the Class of 2015 did not need to end their college career like that.
“We managed to turn a negative into a massive positive,” Kistner said. “The spirit of the Class of 2015 is unmatched, and I’m so proud to be a part of such an incredible group of new alums.”