The class of 2010 may be looking forward to graduation in May, but the location for this year’s commencement is still undecided. Graduation is usually at Sonner Stadium. However, the construction of the new football stadium means the college is looking for a new location for this year’s ceremonies.
The most likely alternative is Stewart Field House. It would allow for 1,500 people with seating included on the floor. If graduation is in Stewart, there will be two separate ceremonies for undergraduate and graduate students to increase the number of guests students can invite. Even with the separate ceremonies, students would still be limited to about five guests apiece.
Sarah Frazier, liberal arts senior, has more family than five tickets would allow into commencement. “It would break my heart if my grandparents had to watch me graduate from a screen somewhere,” said Frazier.
As an alternative, Frazier suggested graduating on the hill of the 77 steps. “This way more people would be able to come,” she said. “The hill and 77 steps are beautiful and important to our school.”
Dick Merriman, President of Southwestern College, is aware that students don’t want to be limited in the number of guests who attend graduation and said the college is looking into all the alternatives but finding an ideal location is not easy. “One suggestion was using the soccer fields,” said Merriman. “We have to consider parking and restrooms. How do we accommodate someone in a walker or wheelchair?”
Winfield High School, who also uses Sonner Stadium for graduation, will be using the grandstands at the fairgrounds this year. “I’m not taken with the idea. For some adult learners, this will be the only time they are ever on campus,” said Merriman.
D.J. Wilson, business administration senior, thinks it’s important to keep graduation on campus. “I think Stewart is the best option because moving off campus takes away the symbolism of graduation,” said Wilson.
Students agree that it is important to keep graduation on the college campus, but don’t like the limitations Stewart Field House puts on the number of guests. “I won’t have over five people come, but I think it’s sad that others are going to have to pick and choose who they bring to graduation,” said Zack Conroy, business administration senior.
If graduation is in Stewart, those who are not able to be in the field house will still be able to watch the events in real time. “Graduation is broadcast locally on the campus channel and on the local access channel. It would also be displayed on a screen in Richardson Auditorium,” said Merriman. “I’m sorry this happened to this class. There was no way to build a stadium without this happening to someone.”
A final decision about the location will be made by April 1.