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Student Senate and Commencement Changes

By Samantha Latos
On October 19, 2018

The Student Senate recently had a big miscommunication with President Birx concerning the spring 2019 commencement ceremony.

Birx has been wanting to make some changes to the commencement ceremony for a while now. This was because the graduating class of 2017 got so out of hand. A significant amount of students were clearly intoxicated. This reflected badly on Plymouth State University as a whole, and caused a lot of embarrassment. According to an anonymous source, several students had beer belts under their gowns. Some students were so bold as to shotgun a beer on stage while on camera, right after they received their diploma.

This year’s graduation went very well. It’s possible that the issues at the 2017 graduation was because of that class of students, rather than a lack of strict rules. In that case, revisions would be unnecessary.

Birx re-designed the structure of graduation so that it lasts an hour and a half. This is accomplished through having two lines of students on the stage, rather than one. This change was mostly a matter of convenience for students and parents. He was concerned that if it ran for too long, people would lose interest.

Brix’s reforms also included having professors sit with the students during graduation. This was meant to discourage students from consuming alcohol. It also had a sentimental aspect; allowing faculty to be with their students, who they have known for years, before and as they graduate.

These policies against drinking seemed redundant to many students. Firstly, college graduates are nearly always 21 years old or older. An anonymous source said, “They paid all this money to attend this college, and this is their graduation day.” It seems that no matter how many rules are enforced, people will find a way to get buzzed at graduation. 

This issue is not a PSU thing, however; it’s a college graduation thing. People drink at college graduations everywhere. It has become a part of college culture. On the other hand, a level of respectful behavior is in order for such an occasion.

Birx has been pushing the idea of having graduation on the Friday instead of the usual Saturday. This is another precaution against students getting too intoxicated leading up to the ceremony. This has proved to be problematic, since Friday is a week day, and students families’ may not be able to attend.

A vote for these changes among the Student Senate came out unanimous; nobody wanted them. It was 0 to 16. 

For one reason or another, an announcement came out, declaring that this next graduation will be held on the Friday. Several members of the Student Senate felt troubled when they saw their signatures included in the announcement.

Senior Vice President Nick Serafin was able to explain what happened. “As for the signatures, I wouldn’t necessarily say that they were forged,” he said, “Yes, they were used without permission. What was frustrating about the whole thing was that we had no idea the statement was out there. We didn’t know that this change happened, and our names were on the announcement. We found out through third-party people. We had students coming to us and asking why we would approve the change. The issue became that it looked like we wrote it, and had something to do with it, when we had absolutely nothing to do with it.”

This may be due to communication issues, which has been an ongoing problem here at PSU. The person who used the Student Senate’s signatures without their permission is still currently unknown.

“Unless I gave you written permission or signed it myself, you do not have permission to use my signature,” Senior Class President, Tyler Brown said.

The Student Senate quickly came up with a game plan to fix the situation. “We scheduled a meeting with Birx, and when we met with him he was really receptive to student opinion,” Nick said, “He said that if student opinion is this strong, that enough people want it changed back, that they should not be against that. Obviously students come first; that is the most important thing.” 

Birx advised them to send out a poll, which recently went out to the senior class, trying to gain student opinion. If the poll shows that students want their commencement ceremony held on the Saturday after all, then Birx will be willing to work on that with the Student Senate. If the poll favors graduation on Saturday, then Birx will most likely make that change. The date for the 2019 graduation is still technically scheduled for that Friday, but it’s up in the air as of now.

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