End of CLA fall graduation ceremony sparks backlash

CLA was the only U college to offer a fall commencement.

Kyle Potter

The University of MinnesotaâÄôs College of Liberal Arts announced Thursday that, starting this year, there will be no December commencement ceremony for its fall graduates.

In an email sent to CLA students, Dean James Parente wrote that the primary factor for canceling the winter ceremony was the closure of Northrop Auditorium, the venue for fall commencement. That left CLA with âÄúno viable campus location,âÄù for hosting the event, Parente wrote.

Northrop closed its doors for renovations in February, and is expected to reopen in summer 2013. After it reopens, there wonâÄôt be enough seating to be able to host fall commencement again, CLA spokeswoman Kelly OâÄôBrien said.

The decision to end the December ceremony wasnâÄôt âÄúmade lightly âĦ or rushed into,âÄù OâÄôBrien said.

It was made in conjunction with the CLA Commencement Committee, which scoured campus to find an alternate venue with the 4,000 seats that the fall ceremony requires, OâÄôBrien said.

âÄúUnfortunately, there just isnâÄôt the space,âÄù she said.

Mariucci Arena, the venue for spring commencement, wouldnâÄôt work because of the UniversityâÄôs college hockey schedule. Other options are too small or too expensive, she said.

Prior to its cancellation, CLA was the only school to host a December commencement.

There were 493 students at the fall commencement in December 2010, said CLA spokeswoman Tessa Eagan. More than 1,700 students took part in this yearâÄôs spring commencement, when CLA hosted two ceremonies.

In place of the December ceremony, Parente invited fall graduates to a âÄúSenior Celebration receptionâÄù on Dec. 15 and to participate in the spring 2012 commencement.

University communications senior Brian Murrell was upset and disappointed when he checked his email over the weekend.

âÄúOf all of the events that the University puts on, [commencement] is one that should be a top priority for them,âÄù he said.

Murrell has sent emails to Parente, OâÄôBrien and President Eric Kaler in hopes of finding a way to hold the canceled ceremony.

âÄúI really think there is a way to make this happen,âÄù he said. âÄúWe can get it scheduled and planned by the time commencement should come around.âÄù

University psychology senior Holly Weber was one of two students on the CLA Commencement Committee that made the decision. Weber will graduate in December.

âÄúItâÄôs definitely a disappointment,âÄù but the committee had no other option, she said.

Weber said she hasnâÄôt yet decided whether she will return to campus in May 2012 for the spring commencement ceremony. She plans to attend the Senior Celebration in December, which will be held in the McNamara Alumni Center.

âÄúItâÄôs different, but it might be nicer, because it will be more intimate,âÄù she said. âÄúI think weâÄôll be able to cope with it.âÄù

ParenteâÄôs email left lots of 33-year-old Kim WoosterâÄòs questions unanswered.

âÄúThis was the best plan they could come up with? Just to cancel it?âÄù Wooster asked.

Wooster, her husband and daughter and the rest of her family have been waiting for the day she could walk across the stage in a cap and gown to accept her diploma. She said she doesnâÄôt intend to take ParenteâÄôs offer of joining the spring commencement ceremony.

âÄúNobody bothered to think how this was going to affect [students],âÄù Wooster said. âÄúIt feels very underhanded.âÄù