Last week, WCU officials cancelled Western Carolina University’s summer commencement ceremony scheduled for Aug. 7. It was suspended in preparation for projected cuts in state-appropriated funding for the 2009-10 fiscal year. The move will not affect spring commencement ceremonies, set for May 8-9, or fall exercises, to be held Dec. 19.
In a statement to the media, Chancellor John Bardo said the seniors who would have graduated in August will receive their diplomas as they normally would, and would be invited to return to campus to participate in December’s ceremony. Regardless, the summer commencement should not have been canceled.
Graduation has never been about a sheet of paper, but rather a rite of passage; a culmination of years of work. Graduates may be invited to walk in December, but the fact that these graduates may move away from Cullowhee, may move back to their hometown, or relocate from the area for employment reasons-must not have been thought about by WCU officials.
There are costs incurred in staffing the summer commencement, setting up and taking down the stage, providing traffic and parking control, and printing the programs-but these costs should not have been slashed by WCU. Other measures could have been taken to aid in preparing for budget cuts in the 2009-10 fiscal year.
Graduates already pay graduation fees to help cover the costs of their graduation. They should not have to endure more costs, such as to pay for gas or hotels, if they were to return to graduate in December.