By Mira Lerner || Copy Editor
To much outrage, F&M recently announced that it would be implementing a five ticket per student limit for the 2020 graduation ceremony. This means that each graduate is allowed a maximum of five guests unless they can acquire extra tickets from others who don’t need all five. Students have taken to the protest tree and social media to voice their discontent and to criticize this decision.
For many, the new guest limit is a cause for stress, irritation, and sadness. Graduation is not only a celebration for students but also for the countless friends and family who sacrificed to help students achieve such a magnificent milestone. As a result, many consider the guest limit insulting. For families, the prospect of missing graduation is deeply disappointing. For graduates, the prospect of not having loved ones around takes away from the celebratory air of the day.
About a week and a half ago, rumors of a five ticket limit for graduation began circulating among students. However, there was no official announcement from the administration. On February 10th, President Altmann sent an email to the student body explaining the decision, citing Lancaster’s fire code as the limiting factor. At The Diplomatic Congress meeting on February 13th, a representative from the President’s Office, Stacy Thornwall-Rogers, spoke more directly about the decision and took questions from attendees.
Essentially, administration decided to hold the ceremony in the Alumni Sports and Fitness Center (ASFC) rather than set up both the ASFC and Hartman Green, due to weather concerns. Over the past twelve years, more commencements were held inside than outside, so this year the school decided to focus resources on an improved indoor ceremony. By planning to set up only one venue, the College avoids spending money on unused vendors and scrambling to prepare the ASFC at the last minute.
Ms. Thornwell-Rogers explained that if a large event’s primary location is outdoors and it is forced inside, Lancaster does not require a fire permit. If the primary location is indoors, though, the host is required to have a permit so that the number of guests does not exceed maximum occupancy and everyone’s safety can be ensured. Although the ASFC has only been cleared for 4,000 people, Ms. Thornwall-Rogers said that she has been working with the fire marshal since the fall to try to get the number up to 4,200, as it has been in the past.
When asked about other possible locations or set-ups, such as Shadek Stadium and a tent on Willamson field, Ms. Thornwall-Rogers said that the commencement planners had looked into all options already. Shadek Stadium does not actually have that much seating and a tent wouldn’t be large enough. Even if the event was held outdoors, the school often gets complaints about heat and the difficulty of pushing wheelchairs and walkers on the grass.
Students who are not expecting five guests have the option to return extra tickets. Those tickets will then be made available to others on a first-come, first-serve basis. As of February 14th, Ms. Thornwall-Rogers said, a waiting list form would be posted on F&M’s website and families could start registering. She also mentioned that a notification email would be sent to parents and students.
Many students expressed concern that extra tickets will only be made available after April 27th, not leaving enough time for families to plan and make travel arrangements. Ms. Thornwall-Rogers is encouraging people to still come to campus whether or not they have a ticket because the event will be live-streamed in Barshinger Hall for non-ticketed guests. Regardless, Ms. Thornwall-Rogers is optimistic that enough students will return tickets so that everyone will get as many as needed.
To many, the decisions that have been made are highly unsatisfactory. Some expressed frustration at having paid $70,000 a year only to be told that their family will not be accommodated at graduation. “I can’t imagine my family members not even in the same room,” one student said of the Barshinger live stream.
Students and Ms. Thornwall-Rogers all seemed to recognize that the situation is not ideal, but the school’s hands are in many ways tied. From the administration’s perspective, they understand frustrations, but this is what they think is best considering that most of the recent graduation ceremonies have been forced indoors.
Senior Mira Lerner is a Copy Editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.