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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The Battalion May 4, 2024

Opinion: Our lonely walk

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Photo by Meredith Seaver

Texas A&M Spring 2020 commencement ceremony is currently postponed.

Jan. 6
Graduating students received their first email from the Office of the Registrar about commencement plans. This email explained the deadlines to apply to graduate in May of this year as well as deadlines for degree requirements to be completed.
Feb. 16
Students received their second email pertaining to the May 2022 graduation. It included reminders on graduation application deadlines.
March 3
The Office of the Registrar sent an email to degree candidates explaining check-in times, instructions and the new guest ticket rule. It concluded that more information regarding ticket policies would be emailed in the coming weeks.
As of publication, no follow-up email has been sent.
Graduating from a university is no small feat. I’m not going to pretend any one degree is more difficult than another, since difficulty in itself is relative. Between anxiety, financial insecurity and hopelessness, college seems to wrap all of these aspects into one pretty bow with many more struggles entangled. College is hard, not just academically, but emotionally, physically and mentally. If you do successfully get to the finish line, then it’s an accomplishment worth celebrating.
This year, Texas A&M has reverted back to guest ticket requirements similar to those in place during the height of COVID-19. Only six of your most loyal family members or friends are permitted to watch you walk across the stage in person. As for your other relatives and loved ones who don’t make the cut, there’s a pitiful live stream available to watch. Now, I fully recognize and own that I’m not a mathematician. Despite this, I have enough brainpower to recognize that Reed Arena does not have the capacity to hold everyone’s godparents and third cousins in addition to their immediate family. It’s just incredibly disappointing, as a soon-to-be graduate myself, that with only six tickets, I can’t manage to fit a fair sequence of family members. In relativity, I have a smaller family. Two parents, one brother, two sets of grandparents, two uncles and one aunt. However, I can’t begin to imagine the struggle of students who come from blended families, divorced families or large families. Deciding a fair and kind way to determine who got the golden ticket seems impossible and cruel. So, out of so-called “fairness,” my grandparents will have to stream my incredible feat from home.
Currently, there are 4,634 first-generation college students listed to be on track or close to graduating this May. That is 4,634 students who are the first in their family to attend college and 4,634 students who deserve to be celebrated.
It breaks my heart that the majority of my family, who helped financially and emotionally support my college career, will be watching from a screen. I can feel the disappointment and heartbreak of other graduates when they came to this realization, too.
The frustrating part is the lack of communication from our university. We applied to graduate starting in January, and months later we’re slyly told we’ll be limited on who we can bring. By that point, everyone had booked hotel rooms and scheduled dinner reservations. Then, we’re told that an in-depth email explaining guest tickets would be coming shortly. It’s six weeks later and we haven’t been told a thing.
Interestingly, if you head on over to the Graduation FAQs, more information about guest tickets has been quietly posted. In case you haven’t read, graduates, on May 2, an email will be sent out with instructions on how to claim your golden tickets. If you graduate on May 12, then you can claim your tickets on May 4. If you graduate on May 13, then you can claim it on May 5 and so on. You then may ask, ‘Can I use extra tickets from a friend who graduates on a different day?’ No, you cannot. You will need extra tickets for your ceremony specifically. Now, what about just extra or unclaimed tickets? If available, they’ll be up for grabs on May 9. And, yes, infants are required to have a ticket too.
Essentially, unless you can find someone in your ceremony with scrap tickets, you’re pretty much out of luck. If you’re a parent who is graduating, your child will need a ticket, regardless of the fact that they’ll be sitting on someone’s lap. If you have two parents and more than four siblings, some will have to hear about it later or no one else will be able to come to watch. If your parents are divorced and remarried, then they’ll either be sitting next to each other along with other family or that’s four tickets gone and two left to give.
There are two main alternative solutions: change of venue or divide ceremonies.
There is a bigger, badder venue that I’m sure is coming to mind — Kyle Field. The main issue with this proposal is that between spring football schedules and Texas heat, schedules can get complicated. Fortunately, May 12-14, Kyle Field looks pretty empty. There may be practices and whatnot, but the football team does have the state-of-the-art McFerrin Athletic Center open for use. I’m sure the players wouldn’t mind the nice air-conditioned center while we graduates cook on the field.
Kyle Field can hold 102,733 people. Suddenly, godparents and third cousins have a spot, and so too does everyone else in the family. It makes a lot of sense to hold graduation ceremonies here. There’s plenty of space, and if A&M wanted to bring in additional funds, they could open up concessions. Sipping on a Miller Lite while watching a three to four hour ceremony doesn’t seem too bad now.
There’s also the solution of what we’ve already done in the past — more ceremonies. During the thick of COVID-19, A&M started spreading out ceremonies to accommodate distancing. However, in 2019, there were eight graduation ceremonies in May. In the spring of 2018, there were 12 ceremonies. In 2016, there were 11 spring ceremonies.
Now, from an administrative point of view, having that many ceremonies to put on and sit through would probably be exhausting. I’m sure President M. Katherine Banks would need ankle surgery if she had to stand through 12 graduations. But, she doesn’t have to. To put it bluntly, I won’t be disappointed if Banks doesn’t shake my hand or say opening remarks. I will, however, be disappointed that my grandma won’t be in attendance. An alternative option would be to have the dean of each school open the respective ceremony and have, for instance, advisers within that school announce our names.
There are simple solutions to this disappointing problem. Graduation shouldn’t be jam-packed for efficiency like a production line. The ceremony itself is a recognition of the hard work and accomplishments graduates have made in their years here. Regardless of how many people you’re bringing, students who want to share their accomplishments with however many people they wish shouldn’t have to worry. Granted, there will always be limitations. I’m not ignorant of the fact that every graduate can’t bring their entire extended family, but there are solutions available that would enable more than six people to watch a student finish their college experience.
Like I said, graduating from college isn’t easy. For me, it took every ounce of effort and mental capacity my body could handle to get to the finish line. Like many others, I’m sure you too had a similar experience. We should be celebrating with our families, friends and loved ones. We shouldn’t have to pick and choose our most worthy suitors. After a long and ongoing pandemic, families should be held closer together rather than split apart.
Regardless of which six people you choose — or if you manage to find long lost golden tickets — I hope every graduate feels proud. Congratulations, Class of 2022, you all have earned every bit of celebration and recognition from the ceremony and beyond.
Kaelin Connor is a psychology senior and opinion columnist for The Battalion.

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