Cal Lutheran’s 2022 graduation ceremony is underwhelming


Photo by Madison Kosar-Reporter

The parking lot of the Ventura County Fairgrounds and signage to direct traffic is the majority of the space, making it look barren and empty.

Madison Kosar, Reporter

For the 2022 commencement ceremony, California Lutheran University will be repeating last year’s car style graduation at the Ventura County Fairgrounds for both undergraduate and graduate students. As a graduating senior, I find it disappointing that I will not be able to spend my final moments graduating from the William Rolland Stadium at Cal Lutheran.

On May 14, graduating students will have the opportunity to watch the ceremony from their car. Students are allowed to bring one car load of people and listen in through their car radio. When it’s time to walk across the stage, students can leave their car and receive their diploma on stage with their masks on.

After spending years at a university and paying thousands of dollars, students want to end their college experience where they started, on campus surrounded by the people and places that shaped the last few years of their lives. The Ventura County Fairgrounds is about a 30 minute drive from Cal Lutheran’s Thousand Oaks campus, not ideal for on campus students since they would have to find transportation to the Fairgrounds.

President Varlotta shared an email last January with the 2022 graduates where she gave information about the upcoming ceremony.

“We are building this year’s plans on last year’s success since graduates shared with us how much they enjoyed the May 2021 program at the Ventura County FairGrounds,” Varlotta said in an email.

Although she claims that last year was a success, alumna Sadaf Mohammadi disagrees.

“To be honest it wasn’t anything special, I feel like it’s so much different than graduating at your actual school. The best part for me was that after it was done, you could go to the beach,” Mohammadi said.

Ventura is a beautiful beach community north of Thousand Oaks, offering a nice location for photos after the graduation itself. However, the fair grounds are barren and not ideal for photos.

Alumni Noah Salas attended last year’s graduation ceremony and found it hard to see any of the event.

“The venue itself wasn’t very nice either, they still had posters and signs up for the concerts that were happening later in the day and it took away from the whole graduation feel,” Salas said.

Cal Lutheran isn’t the only university doing car style graduation. Schools across the country are choosing between in person and drive through ceremonies.

In an article published by the Los Angeles Times, they focus on what the experience of drive-through graduations have been like in Los Angeles County. The participants describe the event as a unique experience and it being better than nothing.

With the pandemic, it is hard to get a normal style ceremony but there are other options that are better than nothing.

Private universities offer their students a lot of benefits like having a close knit community and small class sizes. All of these benefits come at the high cost of our tuition. Our graduation calls for this money to be placed in creating a nice ceremony that doesn’t involve people parking their car in a parking lot to watch a graduation.

Finishing my college experience at the Ventura County Fairgrounds feels wrong and anti-climatic.

I grew up going to the Ventura County Fair and going to concerts at the Fairgrounds but having such an important life event there doesn’t feel appropriate. Although I am more than happy to follow COVID-19 restrictions, I believe graduation could have been done better on campus like previous years.

Students and faculty are required to be vaccinated and wear a mask when they are on campus, why not extend those restrictions to the graduation ceremony and keep it on campus? Although it may be logistically easier to have the Ventura County Fairgrounds staff set up the event, it makes Cal Lutheran seem lazy and unwilling to put in the extra effort to celebrate their graduating class.

Although I will be attending the event safely with my car load of people, it feels like there is a better option for the event considering we are all already on campus attending in-person courses. I would be more than happy to show proof of my vaccinations and wear a mask outside for the whole duration of the graduation ceremony if that’s what it took to graduate at Cal Lutheran. The school could also use the daily health check for all people who attend the ceremony as a way to track possible exposure.

At the end of a student’s college experience, the graduation ceremony is a huge milestone and I believe that Cal Lutheran could have done a better job at celebrating their graduating seniors.