By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The University of Michigan-Dearborn eliminated its December commencement Aug. 16, then reinstated it a day later after an outcry on social media from students and parents.
The university announced it will continue its winter gradation ceremony until the December 2021 ceremony — which will be eliminated.
“University leadership has modified its decision regarding the December commencement ceremony,” UM-D Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Catherine Davy said on Aug. 17.
In an email the previous day Davy said, “Moving to one ceremony will allow for substantial financial savings that will be redirected to increase student financial aid and support student success initiatives.”
Students and parents responded to the cancellation on social media before the about-face was announced.
“I can say I’m disappointed in this action,” parent Aaron Moore said. “I’m not a student, but my daughter is. I know she has been working really hard, and not being able to walk until six months after graduation will remove quite a bit of the excitement.
“Who knows where the graduates will be? Some may be out of state starting new jobs, and won’t even have the opportunity to come back. I believe this was the wrong decision to make.”
A current student, Nadine Jones commented “THIS ISN’T FAIR!!!!!! Those of us graduating this December didn’t have the option of walking this spring. Now we have to wait four months. I’m livid.”
Another student, Briona Steward, also was not happy about the news.
“Soooo disappointing that I’ve literally been counting down the days until December 14th, only to find out that I now don’t get to celebrate a monumental accomplishment until April 2020,” she wrote in a Facebook comment.
Once the news about the reinstatement of winter graduation ceremonies was posted, students thanked the university.
“Thank you for listening to the students,” student Rachel Witherspoon wrote. “Through this, you’ve affirmed that the students come first, which is why so many of us chose to attend.”
“THANK YOU SOOO MUCH!!!” Jones wrote. “University of Michigan-Dearborn listened. Our voices were heard. We will be having our commencement ceremony in December as planned.
“Thank you to all the students, professors, staff, alumni and my friends who all stepped up. This is awesome!! Will be graduating even more emotional. Go Blue!!!!!!”
The initial decision was made after a discussion with senior leaders, deans, faculty senate leadership, student government and the Alumni Society Board chair.
After the December 2020 winter graduation ceremony, UM-D students who otherwise graduate in December will have the option of participating in gradation the spring prior or following their December gradating date, the email said.
“It is our hope that our modified decision will allow more students time to better prepare for a student-centered, festive, and appropriate celebration deserving of the hard work and accomplishment of UM-Dearborn students,” Davy said in the email.
The university moved its spring commencement to Crisler Center in Ann Arbor because the graduating classes grew to the point where UM-D couldn’t provide a fair amount tickets for gradates.
Also the email said, the spring graduation move to Ann Arbor was because the fieldhouse on the Dearborn campus was not the location to celebrate and recognize such an important accomplishment for students and guests.
During the spring graduation in Ann Arbor, one ceremony will be held for undergraduates and another will be for graduate and doctoral students.
“Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, when former Chancellor Dan Little and I first stepped into the Crisler Center to walk the aisle for UM-Dearborn’s commencement in the spring of 2016, we said to each other: ‘This is what graduation should look like. This is what our students deserve,’” Davy said.
In the Aug. 17 email to students, Davy also thanked the campus community for their “thoughtful comments” on behalf of senior leadership.
“This student-centered sentiment ultimately informed the decision to hold one UM-Dearborn graduation ceremony beginning with this academic year,” she said. “In an attempt to consult widely, we admittedly tarried too long before making the announcement last week. For this we apologize.”
“University leadership has read every email and social media post related to the decision to eliminate the December commencement ceremony. Some students shared stories of hardships related to timing of the decision to eliminate the December commencement.”
The UM-D Registrar’s Office will communicate to eligible students this fall regarding December commencement registration.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])