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Editorial: More students means fewer family members at graduation

Graduation is a time to celebrate your accomplishments, look back on the years, look to the future and stress about graduation commencement tickets. All graduating seniors should have already submitted their intent to graduate and attend commencement, if desired. With a chair claimed in the ceremony, that leaves only the technical details — among which, tickets become an issue of serious concern for many graduating students.

Announcements on FirstClass, Facebook and elsewhere often appear in droves near the later weeks of spring semester as students try to grab more than their five standard-issued tickets. This number is dependent on how many students are attending graduation and the seats available in the Harold Alfond Arena. Colleges are split into two ceremonies in the morning and afternoon to keep the ceremony sizes somewhat reasonable. For anyone who has attended a commencement, it is still a sort of controlled chaos.

With the recurring question of larger incoming first-year classes and the current struggle for students to ensure spots for their family members the dispersal of graduation tickets and the commencement venue may need adjustment.

The current procedure affords a blanket number of tickets to graduating students. This year, these must be claimed at the University Bookstore by April 21, or they will be forfeited. Any leftover tickets are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis on Monday, April 17 to any graduating students. Only three tickets may be requested, though there is no guarantee that even one ticket will be offered.

This system mostly leaves students on their own to secure a spot for their families. The standard five tickets should cover most traditional nuclear families, but not all fall under this category. Any student with an extended family must request tickets from others in their class if they want everyone to attend the event. Five tickets do not guarantee grandparents, aunts and uncles or close family friends a way into the event. Though commencement is filmed, there is a marked distinction to invested family members between being there while it’s happening and watching through a television screen.

Monetary exchange for commencement tickets is not allowed, though a price is often set when someone caves to the pressure and names a figure. This year, claims of $50 tickets are making rounds. Requests for additional tickets are never guaranteed, so students largely resort to searching their class. This system is unsustainable, especially with more students coming into the university in record figures.

One simple way to change this system is to move commencement to a more suitable venue. The Harold Alfond Arena is a nice space, but there are larger options which could better suit UMaine graduations. Splitting commencement into more than two events needs to consider any guest speakers and their time commitment, as well as other costs associated with commencement utilities and hosting. If UMaine keeps the two-commencement schedule but moves the location, students will have more options for inviting family while keeping the event fairly streamlined in a single day.

Moving to a larger venue would secure at least a minimum of five tickets for each student and with any luck will secure more tickets for students who want to bring larger families to share in this special day. Having more reserved seats overall to promise students may speed up the process of ticket dispersal, which poses another problem for UMaine seniors who need sufficient time to alert family members who plan on traveling long distances to the campus. A larger venue may secure more handicapped spaces as well, further opening the event to all sorts of family members.

Graduation from college is a serious achievement worthy of sharing with parents, siblings, grandparents and friends — in person, if they wish. Knowing that they have all the tickets they need will release some unnecessary pressure for seniors in their degree’s final semester.

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