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Updated 5:30 PM February 1, 2008
 

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  Research
Location outweighs number of guests in commencement poll

An overwhelming majority of graduating students have said they want Spring Commencement to stay on campus, and they are willing to take a reduced number of tickets to make it happen. As a result, the University has scrapped a plan announced earlier in January to move the ceremony to Eastern Michigan University.

A poll conducted the week of Jan. 21 by the newly appointment Commencement Advisory Committee was completed by 4,022 students. In it, 88 percent of students said having a ceremony on campus was very important.

University leaders announced Jan. 9 a plan to hold commencement at Rynearson Stadium at EMU because of construction at the Big House. Officials said the decision was based on the belief that students would expect the usual eight tickets for family and friends, which would not be possible in any facility on the U-M campus. The next largest venue, Crisler Arena, can accommodate only 2-3 guests per graduate. 

Following the change-of-venue announcement, e-mails and calls began pouring in from students, parents and alumni. Leaders held community meetings to hear additional concerns and agreed to rethink the decision. The committee then drafted the poll in an effort to gauge the priorities of graduates.

In terms of the number of guests, nearly 39 percent of those responding said they needed fewer than three tickets; 44 percent want 4-5 seats; 12 percent indicated a need for 6-7; and nearly 5 percent wanted eight or more.

When asked to say which factor was most important — having guests attend the same live ceremony; attending the same event as graduating friends, regardless of school or college affiliation; participating in a graduate procession; attending the same ceremony as the graduate speaker; or having commencement on campus — 69 percent of the respondents said the campus location was most important. Having guests at the same event came in a distant second at 14 percent.

In a letter to graduating students, the committee stated: “Many offices are involved in providing us with information that they are collecting so we can complete our analysis and assessment and provide the executive officers with recommendations on the viability of Michigan Stadium and several other campus venues. We are working on an aggressive schedule to define two or three viable options for their consideration.” Students will be asked to give input again on the alternatives, leaders have said.

A Jan. 29 student march to protest spring graduation at EMU was cut short by the administration’s decision to reverse course and hold the ceremony on the U-M campus. Mike Eber, a West Bloomfield senior, led a group of 20 students, who gathered in the Diag around a large “Maize Out March” banner.

“We’ve already won,” Eber said, raising a newspaper announcing the decision above his head. “We got our wish.”

“I’d like to thank the administration for working with us,” he added before leading the group in a spirited rendition of the U-M fight song, “The Victors.” “Student activism was a deciding factor in bringing graduation back to campus.”

For results of the poll, a list of the committee members and other information, go to: www.commencement.umich.edu.

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