Student, faculty/staff opinion polls about May 2023 commencement results

Carrollyne Aasen, Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s note: The statements quoted in the article reflect the opinions of those who participated in this poll, and are not a reflection of The Echo. A sample of comments were included in the article reflecting the most common feedback shared in the opinion poll. The comments included in the article are the verbatim responses submitted by participants in the opinion polls. 

The Echo released two opinion polls to students, faculty and staff about their opinions in relation to the 2023 undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremony dates and times. The links to the two opinion polls were shared on The Echo’s social media on Nov. 28 and in The Echo’s weekly newsletter on Nov. 29. Of the two, one opinion poll was for undergraduate and graduate students and one  was for faculty members. Additional options were included to reflect staff opinions on Nov. 29 at 9:33 a.m. following 12 respondents from faculty. The opinion polls continued to receive responses until Dec. 10. 

Student opinion poll results

98.33% or 177 participants in the opinion poll consented to their responses possibly being published in The Echo. Twenty-one participants did not complete the opinion poll after giving their consent. 1.67% or three participants did not give consent to participate in the opinion poll and no data was collected. 

89.10% or 139 of 156 participants indicated that they were undergraduate students, 7.69% or 12 selected graduate students and 3.21% or five chose Other, but did not leave clarifications. 76.28% or 119 participants of 156 respondents stated that their anticipated commencement year is 2023, 11.54% or 18 participants selected 2024, 5.13% or eight indicated 2025 and 4.49% or seven chose other/not sure. Two undergraduate participants who chose other/not sure wrote that their anticipated commencement year is 2022 and fall 2022. 

The 2023 commencement, according to the California Lutheran University website, is scheduled for Friday, May 12, 2023 at 8:30 a.m. for undergraduate students and 2 p.m. on the same day for graduate students. From the 156 participants, 134 continued the opinion poll. Out of these 134 respondents, 51.49% of 69 participants indicated that the time/date of commencement works for them and 48.51% or 65 indicated that the time/date of commencement does not work for them. Because of an error in the format of the opinion poll through Qualtrics, the program used to create the opinion poll and the link for distribution, students who indicated that the time/date of commencement works for them were unable to type in their opinions about commencement. 

“I do not think commencement should be on a Friday, especially the Friday of finals week. My family, my parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, all work during the week and would not be able to attend commencement, the people who have supported me all throughout my educational career. I strongly believe commencement should not be on Friday, especially at that time of day. It should be on Saturday, perhaps at a later time as well,” a graduating undergraduate student said. 

“The time and date selected lacks consideration for families that have to work & taking time off is difficult. This daye and time is not a decision that aligns with servingness, especially as an HSI if anytjing it lacks consideration of the impact this decision has on students and their families. Additionally as a working graduate student, this does not take into account the difficulty for those studenta in grad provlems who work full time and have to request time off, potentially losing out on pay. While attendance for the graduation ceremony is not mandatory, it is symbolic for many of us, espexially first-generation students,” a graduating graduate student said. 

A concern included in the responses of the opinion poll was that the date would cause themselves or family members to be unable to attend.

“The current date interferes with my graduate program schedule and the work/school schedules of my family. The ceremony should be held on the weekend,” a graduating graduate student said. 

Since Friday is often the date of make-up exams during finals weeks, some students indicated this could cause additional stress for students, alongside close proximity to move-out day for residential students  

“I think that it does not make sense to have commencement on the last day of finals week. There will still be people making up certain exams or assignments on those days that will have to worry about it as well. It also feels as though the university is trying to push the seniors out as quickly as they can, without giving them the last few days off,” a graduating undergraduate student said. 

“Commencement shouldn’t be on the last day of finals week. That time is meant for students to catch up & make sure everything has been completed. By having commencement on Friday instead of Saturday or Sunday, the school is taking that time away from them,” an undergraduate student with the anticipated commencement year of 2026 said. 

Another concern was about the time of the undergraduate commencement ceremony. Some respondents included that the 8:30 a.m. time would cause difficulty for their and their family’s commute to the university and those coming from out-of-state. 

“Graduation is at 8:30 and for me to make the drive I need to leave my house at least by 7:45. So to get ready, especially for something this big, I might even have to wake up at 6am or 6:30am. That isn’t a good way to start such an important date. And I’m lucky. I have friends who have to drive about an hour to get to school. Was the school not thinking of commuters? Not everyone lives on campus,” a graduating undergraduate student said.  

“It’s a terrible idea to have graduation at 8am on a Friday. My family has to now take off two days of work to see me graduate. I am the first person in my family to graduate and I would be greatly disappointed and upset if my family was not able to make it due to a conflict with work. Graduation should be moved to Saturday so that we can spend time with our family and make it easier on travel. Not all of us our privileged and able to change our schedules around during the week. Friday works best for the students and families, which are the most important on graduation day,” another graduating undergraduate student said. 

“It is way too early, honestly. I have family who will have to come from out of town, hours of travel, meaning they’ll have to leave really early that morning, or come the night before. They all have jobs, meaning they’d have to call out of work, negatively affecting them and their financial needs. Even Saturday at that same time would be better than a Friday, or at least have it later in the day. For me, I’m not a morning person, and having to get up early to be ready for a big event will not only be tiring, but more stressful than it needs to be,” a graduating undergraduate student said. 

For some graduate students, the time also presented concerns because of the morning weather in May and traffic. 

“It’s just super inconvenient. I have family in LA. Asking them to drive here, on a friday, in traffic, in the middle of the afternoon,” a graduating graduate said.

“It is too hot outside at 2:00 in May to be comfortable during the ceremony,” another graduating graduate student said. 

Alternative times to the undergraduate commencement ceremony in the opinion poll included 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. with other options being to keep the time at 8:30 a.m. or  write in their own times through the “Other” option. Fifty-five respondents, who indicated that the time/date does not work for them, were directed to this question and were able to choose multiple responses. 5.45%, or 3 respondents, indicated that undergraduate commencement should stay at 8:30 a.m., 16.36%, or 9, said it should start at 9 a.m., 10.91%, or 6, selected 9:30 a.m., 56.36%, or 31, chose 10 a.m. as an alternative and 10.91%, or 6, responded with Other. Respondents who indicated Other and wrote alternatives, such as 12 p.m. or after 12 p.m., the evening, the afternoon, after the graduate commencement ceremony and 4 p.m. and later. 

“The current time and date is a clear display that CLU only sees their students as paychecks and does not care about the experience that their students and families have been working towards for the last four or more years. My family lives hours away and might not be able to make it due to the commencement time and date,” a graduating undergraduate student said. 

As for alternative times to the graduate commencement ceremony, the options displayed included maintaining the current time of 2 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and Other with participants having the ability to select multiple times. 17.31%, or 9 respondents out of 52,stated to keep the time at 2 p.m., 5.77%, or 3, selected 2:30 p.m. to begin the commencement ceremony, 25%, or 13, said 3 p.m., 30.77%, or 16, selected 3:30 p.m. and 21.15%, or 11, chose Other. The respondents who indicated Other wrote that alternative times would be to have it in the morning, such as 8:30 a.m., on May 12 or May 13. 

“10:00 or 9:00 a.m., get it out of the way since it’s shorter,” a graduating graduate student said. 

Other alternative times included by these respondents were 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.

“After 5pm, as I’m sure they are plenty of graduate students who have an actual job and will need to get time off to attend an event at 2pm,” a graduating undergraduate student said. 

In relation to the date of commencement for undergraduate and graduate students, 10.42%, or 5 students, selected maintaining the date of May 12 and 85.42%, or 41 respondents, said May 13. 4.17%, or 2 students, chose Other and included that “they should be on different days” or that “it can be Friday but just make it in the evening or make it Saturday morning.”

For reasoning behind selecting these dates and times for undergraduate and graduate commencement, students stated that it would allow for more preparation and commuting as well as ensure that more students and family members can attend. 

“10 am gives time for commuters and relatives to all get ready. And according to the time gap between undergrad and graduate (which was about 3 hours and 30 minutes). Then 2pm should be a good time, but to allow enough for undergrads and their relatives to go and graduate families and students to arrive, a one hour window would be best. So I chose 3pm,” a graduating undergraduate student said. 

Some students included that they are more concerned about the day than the time.

“The time is less of a big deal, it’s more the day. I’m a grad student so it doesn’t matter to me about the morning and the afternoon feels the same to me!” a graduating graduate student said. 

“Saturday would work best. The times allow for more preparation, but the date is more important in my opinion,” another graduating graduate student said. 

Students also brought up having the ceremonies on different days. 

“Different days for each program and earlier in the day will be more comfortable when considering the weather,” a graduating graduate student said. 

When asked if respondents had any suggestions, concerns or questions regarding commencement, students mentioned to change the date to Saturday, May 13 and reconsider the times. 

“I would like more communication about it, as I have heard different information about whether I am required to purchase regalia or rent it; whether I can apply to be speaker; and how many guests I can invite,” a graduating graduate student said. 

“No, just keep the lives and responsibilities of the actual people graduating, who spent a lot of money to get their education, and do what works for us and them, and not what is most convenient for the school,” a graduating undergraduate student said. 

“How is the parking situation going to look since students will still be in res halls,” a graduating undergraduate student said. 

“When will we know if graduation has been moved? We need ample time to plan accordingly,” a graduating undergraduate student said. 

Faculty/Staff opinion poll results

91.53% or 54 of 59 respondents consented to their responses possibly being published in The Echo. 8.47% or three participants did not give consent to participate in the opinion poll and their data was not included in the article.

68.75%, or 11 respondents, indicated they were staff and 31.25%, or 5, said they were faculty. Thirty-two participants did not select an option and six did not continue the opinion poll. 41.67, or 20 respondents, said they teach undergraduate students,12.50%, or six, indicated they teach graduate students, 8.33%, or four, selected they teach undergraduate and graduate students, 29.17%, or 14, reflected that they teach neither undergraduate or graduate students and 8.33%, or four, stated N/A. 

Following the previous question, 21 respondents did not continue the opinion poll. 

78.57%, or 11 respondents, said the time/date of commencement works for them and 21.43%, or three, said the time/date of commencement does not work for them. Twelve respondents from the previous questions and those who continued with the opinion poll did not indicate if the current time/date of commencement does or does not work for them. Two respondents to this question did not continue the opinion poll after this question. One indicated that the time/date of commencement does work for them and the other participant said the time/date of commencement does not work for them. 

Faculty and staff members said the current date works for them because it is during the work week and there will be regular child care available. However, there were also concerns that having commencement on Friday will cause difficulties for attendees to request time off and the weather for the graduate commencement ceremony. 

“Knowing how short staffed we were last year, I am happy with holding this on a Friday. Last year, we had so few staff volunteers, who were not permitted to clock overtime for the event, that we ended up having our housekeeping and groundskeeping staff sitting out on the field in an incredibly hot day. This event does not happen if staff do not plan and volunteer for it, period. So, if the option is to move it to a Friday to get more staff volunteers or not be able to host it because it’s scheduled on a Saturday and staff do not volunteer, then I will take Friday every time. Faculty are able to show up for the celebration without, while staff are the ones planning and working the event to make sure it is a success,” a staff member who teaches undergraduate students said. 

“For graduate students and their guests, a 2pm ceremony is not ideal because of the heat. People in the past had heat stroke. Someone was wheeled off in a wheelchair last year. The direct sun is dangerous given potential temperatures in the 90s,” a faculty member who teaches graduate studies said. 

When asked about what time undergraduate commencement should start and could select multiple responses, 25%, or eight respondents, indicated 8:30 a.m., 40.63%, or 13, said 9 a.m., 9.38, or three. selected 9:30 a.m., 21.88%, or nine, chose 10 a.m. and 3.125%, or one, said Other, writing that “should doesn’t make sense in this context.”

“It’s less likely that students will show up drunk at 8:30 on a Friday. On Saturdays, they could get really unruly,” A faculty member who teaches undergraduate students said.

31.25%, or 10 respondents, indicated that graduate commencement should start at 2 p.m., 25%, or eight, selected 2:30 p.m., 15.63%, or 5, chose 3 p.m., 6.25%, or two, said 3:30 p.m. and 21.88%, or seven, chose Other. Some respondents who chose Other said during the morning on Friday or a different day with 9 and 10 a.m. being mentioned, and later in the afternoon with 4 or 4:30 p.m. as well as 7 p.m. being mentioned. Respondents wrote that graduate commencement should not be during the hottest part of the day and should “avoid the midday heat.”

“It feels unfair that they are moving the grad commencement to the hottest part of the day just because there are fewer students, a better solution should be identified,” a faculty member who teaches graduate students said. 

As for the date, 55.17%, or 16 respondents, said undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies should be on Friday, May 12 and 37.93%, or 11, indicated they should be on Saturday, May 13. 6.90%, or two other respondents, chose Other. Respondents were able to select multiple options.

“Graduate on Friday and undergrad on Saturday,” a faculty member who teaches graduate students said. 

Some respondents said their reasoning for selecting these dates and times for undergraduate and graduate commencement is because it would allow for more people to attend and could avoid high temperatures. 

“Regarding UG times I put (9:30 and 10), I don’t think any students want to be lining up for an 8:30AM walk. Also, I have child care responsibilities in the morning so early line up is not good for me either,” a respondent who teaches both undergraduate and graduate students said. 

“9am is not too early and leaves the rest of the day for undergrads to celebrate with their families, and 3pm for grads is after the heat of the day and allows them more time to travel. Grads typically do not live on campus and drive time would impact them more than undergrads,” a staff member who teaches undergraduate students said. 

When asked if respondents had any suggestions, concerns or questions regarding commencement, faculty and staff members mentioned appreciation for “not having to attend commencement on the weekend” and suggested Cal Lutheran hire an external company to run the commencement ceremonies because those involved in commencement are “overworked and understaffed.” 

“The administration should consult the community more widely before makng changes,” a respondent who teaches undergraduate studies said.

“As a faculty member, i know Commencement is important fir graduates and their families. Holding both on Saturday (undergrad at 10am and grad around 4pm) prioritizes family travel time and weather-based comfort,” another respondent who teaches undergraduate studies said.

“It’s hard to please everyone, but it is encouraging when concerns are at least listened to and considered,” a faculty member who teaches graduate students said.

Additional opportunities for opinions

On Dec. 5, The Echo posted an infographic on Instagram to attempt to rectify an error made during the student opinion poll and for additional opinions. This inquiry received two responses, who are both Communication majors.

“The 8:30am start time for graduation just doesn’t work out cause my younger siblings have school and my parents have work. I hope the graduation moves to Saturday May 13th,” Hannah Schindler said in a direct message. 

“I strongly believe that commencement should be moved to Saturday. Having commencement on Friday forces our families to take more time off of work, which can lead to some people not being able to attend commencement. I am a first generation college student, and I will be devastated if my family can’t see me graduate. My family and I have worked really hard to pay for my schooling, and they deserve to attend to my graduation without all of this stress. Friday is also a makeup day for finals, so having commencement on a Friday only adds more stress for the students who possibly need to make up a final. Commencement should be all about the students and their families, so the date should reflect that. I don’t understand why Friday was ever considered because Saturday is clearly the better date to have commencement. I am really hoping that it gets changed to Saturday, May 13th,” Aubrey Finicle said in a direct message.