What Will Commencement 2023 Look Like?

What Will Commencement 2023 Look Like?

Jack Radomski, Editor

The University of Minnesota has been forced to adapt to COVID-19 and the restrictions it placed on events for the last few years. Graduation ceremonies were no exception. Over the last few years, University officials worked to give students an authentic experience while also following policy and procedure. The plans for this year’s commencement will affect around 6,000 undergraduates and around 2,000 masters and doctoral students, and it has caused controversy among the student body. 

The Master’s and Doctoral Degree Student Commencement will be on May 12, 2023 and the Bachelor’s Degree Student Commencement will be held May 13, 2023.

Just as it seemed like graduation ceremonies were getting back on track, the University made an announcement that disappointed many students and has caused quite an outrage in recent weeks. Last month, the University announced that the graduation ceremony would be held at Huntington Bank Stadium instead of the usual 3M Arena at Mariucci, which would be closed due to construction. This change in venue will inevitably lead to logistical changes, and students and their families were left to think on what Commencement 2023 will look like.

Students started to question whether or not they would be able to walk across the stage, how this would affect their family members attending, and how long this ceremony would last. This uncertainty did not sit well with many students, and hundreds of members of the student community signed an online petition urging the administration to allow them to walk at graduation. 

John Coleman, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said in his October announcement “There are many details to work out between now and May, but our goal remains unchanged – to create a meaningful and memorable event with all of the pomp and circumstance that our graduating students deserve.” 

There are many details to work out between now and May, but our goal remains unchanged – to create a meaningful and memorable event with all of the pomp and circumstance that our graduating students deserve

— John Coleman

Days after Coleman sent an email to students within the College of Liberal Arts, students received another email from Executive Vice President and Provost Rachel Croson. This message was an attempt by the University administration to curb some of the frustration that the student body showed in reaction to the original announcement. 

This email stated that colleges are working on solutions so students can do things such as walk across the stage or hear their names read during the ceremony. Additionally, Croson apologized on behalf of the administration, writing “We should have communicated these efforts more clearly from the start and I’m sorry that our failure to do so has left so many of you with concerns.” 

The most recent plan is to keep the larger ceremony at Huntington Bank Stadium, and have smaller ceremonies by college or major. This would leave the responsibility to each individual college or major program to hold celebrations at the end of the Spring 2023 semester. This proposal also raises logistical concerns; where would each college or major program hold their celebration?

While some students remain frustrated with the University and anxiously await updates, other students are indifferent to their commencement ceremony. I interviewed two University of Minnesota seniors, Jack Pokora and Tom Olenchek, and asked them about their opinions on the commencement drama.

Tom Olenchek joked “I’ll be at the KK during graduation either way” and Jack Pokora remarked that he didn’t mind not walking across the stage at graduation. 

Despite some students feeling indifferent towards the graduation ceremony, it is safe to say that the University will have to provide answers for many University of Minnesota seniors that are concerned about the issue. 

For many students, it is a day to celebrate their work during their undergraduate, and a time for their families to recognize their achievements. Commencement will be an especially important time for this year’s graduating class, as seniors have had their college experience cut short from the COVID-19 pandemic. The past few years have been anything but normal for many graduating seniors, and a commencement ceremony is one event that should feel normal for students who have endured online classes and a college social life that was cut short. 

If you have questions or concerns about the 2023 commencement ceremony, the University has set up a google form to voice your opinions. As May approaches, the University will continue to send out University-wide emails and announcements to provide clarity for students and their families.