University Out of Touch With Graduating Students

UA holds graduation at E.J. for personal feel while limiting space for loved ones of graduates.


(Photo courtesy of Pixaby)

The University of Akron will be holding several graduation ceremonies from May 11 to May 13. Each of these ceremonies will be held at E.J. Thomas Hall. This may be of concern to many students.

The University splits graduation ceremonies by divisions of respective colleges and degree levels, such as graduate and undergraduate. For several reasons such as time and efficiency, this seems more practical than holding one large ceremony, which is done at several other colleges in the state. However, E. J. Thomas can seat just under 3000 people. The limited seating at E.J. Thomas is what is causing issues for students.

For some ceremonies, students have received as many as seven tickets for their guests to use. However, other ceremonies are only able to offer students as few as four tickets for guests. For some, this may work well, but for others not so much. My question to the University is, why limit this number? I have had many discussions with students where they have reached the conclusion that their grandparent, sibling, relative, caregiver, close loved one, etc. cannot come to the ceremony because of the limited number of tickets they have received.

It seems that this is an unnecessary problem. James A. Rhodes Arena can seat 5,500 people and seat graduates on the area of the court, FirstEnergy Stadium-Cub Cadet Field can seat 5,800 and seat graduates on the soccer field, and finally, InfoCision Stadium can seat about 30,000 people and could seat graduates on the field. The option of having one of these sports stadiums holding graduation seems appealing and with the JAR, there are no weather concerns. With all of these empty venues, it is natural to wonder why UA would hold graduation ceremonies in a more limited space, preventing graduates from having their loved ones attend.

In fact, the solution of having graduation ceremonies at an athletic facility seemed to make so much sense, that I felt compelled to reach out and asked the administration why this was not the case. Surely, a problem this apparent must have a good reason for avoiding obvious solutions.

The University’s response said that holding the ceremonies at E.J. Thomas “allows a more personal ceremony for the graduates and their families,” and has been done since 1999. But, this seems to be conflicting with the fact that many students will not be able to have important loved ones present. A ceremony with a greater seating capacity would prevent this issue. The ceremony on Friday evening and Saturday morning gave each graduate five guest tickets. Graduates at the Saturday afternoon ceremony who are part of the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences graduate division have received seven guest tickets. Those in the undergraduate division ceremony being held on Saturday evening only received four tickets. Graduates attending each of the ceremonies on Sunday received seven tickets each.

I spoke with one student about her struggle with the limited tickets. The Buchtelite’s Sports, Arts and Editor, Erika Newcome, has several dynamics that students desiring additional tickets can relate to in one way or another. Here are her thoughts on the matter:

“I spent the past five years studying at this University, and throughout my time here I have been presented with my fair share of struggles. Following a metastatic cancer diagnosis in June of 2016, just one month after turning twenty-one I wasn’t sure if I should continue on at UA. With the love and support from my entire family, I returned to school in Aug. of 2016 in pursuit of a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree.

Upon receiving the confirmation email that our graduation ceremony would only provide us with four guest tickets, I began asking fellow students if I could purchase any extra tickets – of course, I could for over $100.

As a soon to be alumni, this will be one of the last things myself and many others will remember about the University – and that’s a shame.”

I want to thank Erika for openly sharing this with us.

To the University’s credit, this was expected as UA sent out an email that said no fewer than four tickets would be available to students. There are cases where students have an excess of tickets, but depending on which ceremony a student needs additional tickets for, it may be unlikely they are able to get them, at least in a reasonable manner. Many students were searching for tickets to the Saturday evening ceremony at 6 p.m. where students only received four guest tickets. Since there is no regulation on student-to-student tickets sales and because the demand for tickets for certain ceremonies is high, second-hand ticket sales are reaching ridiculous price points. On an email thread I am on for graduating seniors, I have seen three prices for tickets which were $50, $100 and $200. Surely, this is not reasonable. However, I have jokingly said to a loved one of mine that if I could sell their ticket for $200, then we could go out to a very nice dinner.

Jokes aside, as graduation candidates walk around campus during finals week, some will pass large athletic stadiums with large parking lots nearby and others will pass the lovely, but yet limited, capacity of E.J. Thomas Hall. It seems reasonable then to wonder why the University does not hold these celebrations in a less limited location. A rather interesting juxtaposition would be driving to graduation and passing an empty football stadium, empty soccer stadium or empty basketball arena. As a final note, I wish a hearty congratulations to all graduates and I hope your loved ones are able to share in your celebration.