Updated: 11:50 a.m., 2/7/2019: University of Florida students graduating this fall will once again have their names read for all to hear as they cross the stage during their commencement ceremony.
UF is reverting to its previous format of a combined-college commencement in which each student will be individually recognized and celebrated during fall semester graduation ceremonies at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, said Stephanie McBride, UF’s director of commencements.
UF President Kent Fuchs approved the new plan Jan. 25 following feedback from the commencement task force and related faculty. The university will hold three master’s and bachelor’s commencement ceremonies, combining all colleges,in December.
This ceremony revision comes after UF changed both fall and spring semester commencements to a university-wide event in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium last September. The decision agitated some students who claimed they were being denied individual recognition during graduation. The change occurred after UF received backlash for an aggressive usher physically forcing people offstage during the last spring semester’s commencement ceremony.
Individual colleges also held smaller ceremonies to give students and their families the opportunity to hear the graduate’s name called as he or she crossed the stage, but not everyone was happy about the new setup. The secondary ceremonies were not only expensive, but some of the venues were not large enough to hold all of the guests, pushing some family members to an auxiliary viewing room to watch the ceremony on TV.
Faculty and staff commencement participants are welcoming moving the ceremony to what it once was.
“I believe this past spring’s all commencement ceremony was a letdown to all graduating students, many who did not attend and opted to attend each college recognition ceremony,” said Dr. James Daniel Leary, undergraduate coordinator for the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, who has served in commencement ceremonies for the past 22 years.
For now, spring commencement ceremonies will still be held at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with smaller breakout college ceremonies, as the stadium is better equipped for the large spring graduation numbers. McBride said approximately 8,500 students graduate in the spring, with an average of 10 guests per graduate.
Summer and fall graduation will be conducted at the Stephen O’Connell Center, which can accommodate the smaller graduating classes with 8,000 seating in the stands and 1,200 on the floor, explained McBride. All students will be individually recognized and celebrated.
Approximately 3,500 students graduate in the fall and 2,500 in the summer.
“This is an evolving process depending on changing needs, and we’ve experienced growing pains based on commencement participation,” McBride said.