An Eastern Michigan University student has started a petition after the university announced that summer 2022 graduates would no longer be allowed to walk in the upcoming April commencement ceremony.
EMU will instead be holding a summer commencement ceremony in August. Summer graduates were previously allowed to walk in the April ceremony before completing all of the requirements for graduation.
Lena Timko, a senior at EMU and an environmental science major who started the petition, received an email on Feb. 21, with the university’s official announcement of the change. The email outlined when the April, August, and December graduation dates are and who may participate in them.
"The notice that was given was very short notice,” Timko said. “We got the email, I think it was February 21st, and the deadline to apply to graduation is March 6th. So, that's like 13 days, so it's not a lot of time. I know a couple of people who can't graduate now in the spring...so, knowing that before the fall semester definitely could've helped a lot of people.”
The information about the newly added summer ceremony may leave many graduates without the opportunity to walk across the stage. With such short notice, some students are left scrambling to adjust their plans.
"My personal situation is that I'm not going to be able to walk for commencement at all now because I'm actually graduating a year early and I have an internship set up out of state for this summer,” senior August Heath, an environmental science major, said. “I picked my start date because I was under the impression that I would be walking in spring commencement because that's what my advisor told me for three years. The timing for me was a big thing.”
Both Timko and Heath said that they don't understand why the university came to this decision without any student involvement in the process.
"They didn't explain that this would be happening in order to allow people to change their plans to accommodate that,” Heath said. “If they would've said it last semester, I wouldn't have as much of a problem with it. I think that it really was not communicated very well to the students. I just don't understand it because they've always allowed August graduates to walk the April ceremony.”
Melissa Thrasher, the director of media relations at EMU, said that the university added the new August ceremony in response to requests from former summer graduates.
“In past years the University heard from summer graduates who preferred a summer ceremony because they were not officially graduating in spring,” Thrasher said in a written statement. “We also heard from other summer graduates who opt not to participate in the December ceremony following their summer graduation as they have moved on to new careers or have relocated. Due to these factors, a good number of our summer graduates never have the opportunity to walk across the stage and accept their diplomas.”
The university is aware of the problems that students are facing. In a statement, Thrasher explains some of the opportunities that the August ceremony has to offer, including honoring alumni who did not walk in commencement ceremonies due to the pandemic.
"The morning ceremony in August 2022 also gives the University an opportunity to honor graduates from the spring, summer and winter of 2020 and the spring of 2021, who did not have in-person ceremonies due to the pandemic.” Thrasher said. “At the same time, our two spring commencement ceremonies are increasingly nearing capacity and we don't want to further restrict the number of guests each graduate can have in attendance.”