Graduation ceremonies celebrate the incredible achievements of one’s college experience, and mark the beginning of the next part of students’ lives. Whether you’re starting a new job or going to graduate school, commencement is a huge moment that so many look back on, and so many look forward to.
Students wait years to walk across the stage surrounded by their peers, family and friends. But unfortunately, for some UT students, that opportunity may not come because last week it was announced that the Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences colleges would no longer hold graduation ceremonies in December. Though they will be given the option to walk in the spring, students in these colleges who are graduating in the fall will not be able to walk right after they graduate, and this decision will diminish the value of the graduation experience.
“I have been dreaming of graduating from UT since I was a little girl, and it’s frustrating that I’m going to have to wait a whole semester and come back in May to walk,” said Kate Richter, a junior English and Women’s and Gender Studies double major, who is graduating in the fall of 2017. “There’s something about finally finishing this huge goal of college, and getting to immediately celebrate that with your graduation ceremony. What happens for students who take a job across the country, and can’t come back to walk?”
The decision — made by interim provost Judith Langlois and the respective deans of each college, according to Interim Communications Director Joey Williams — was made based on a study stating that students are more likely to graduate in four years if they are able to “socially integrate with the university,” and that having one graduation ceremony a year will encourage this social integration. The problem with this argument is that for many students, the reason they graduate in more than four years cannot be influenced by ‘social integration.’
For example, if a student has to work throughout college in order to pay for cost of living, tuition and more, their options are limited and they may take fewer classes and have to graduate late, which will not change just because they want to ‘socially integrate.’ In addition, when it comes to large public universities such as our own, students have to compete with their peers to get into the classes they need to graduate, and if they don’t, this adds time to their degree due to no fault of their own.
Another problem is that a lot of students at UT are in fact graduating a semester early rather than a semester later, yet they are being affected by this decision that is backed by reasoning that doesn’t even apply to them. On the other hand, college is a time for students to make the most of their education, to explore and try new things, and sometimes this takes more than four years.
Students should not have to pick and choose between graduating on time or making the most of their college experience. Moreover, they should certainly be given equal opportunity to celebrate their achievements with their friends and family, regardless of how much time it takes for them to graduate. Walking across the stage to collect your diploma is an invaluable experience, and every student — whether they’re part time, working towards several degrees, or simply wanting to extend their time at college — should have the chance to do so, whether it be in the fall or in the spring.
Agha is a public relations junior from Karachi, Pakistan. Follow her on Twitter @alinaagha96.