December graduation ceremonies are now a thing of the past


Provost Nichols said that the university spent nearly $75,000 for both the fall and spring ceremonies last year.


Due to budget cuts, SDSU will not hold a commencement ceremony for December graduates.

Managing Editor

Students who graduate at the end of the fall semester will no longer be able to take part in December graduation ceremonies.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s 10 percent cut in spending for the 2012 fiscal year means a $4.7 million cut for the university. Provost Laurie Nichols said all departments are working to reduce spending, and not having a fall 2011 ceremony will save the university more than $20,000.

“It’s budget-driven,” Nichols said. “That is why. We wouldn’t be talking about this if it wasn’t the budget.”

In December, the Office of Academic Affairs was discussing the possibility of canceling the fall ceremony. At that time, Nichols said the 2011 ceremony was already scheduled, and the actual elimination “would be a ways out.” However, “given the rather dire budget situation, we decided not even to do that,” she said.

“It’s not ideal,” Nichols said. “It’s not how we would hope to do it. It’s also just not feasible to think about running three commencements every year.”

Nichols said her office had to cut spending somehow, and it came down to what is and is not necessary for staff and students.

“It’s a nice to-do, but truthfully students will graduate with or without a December commencement,” Nichols said.

Last year, Nichols said the university spent $70,000 to $75,000 for both the fall and spring ceremonies,.

She also said the planning is “very detailed,” involving everything from parking to speakers to wheelchairs to hiring a medical practitioner.

“It’s quite an event,” Nichols said. “We work pretty hard on it for a good month.”

Students who plan to graduate in December can choose if they want to walk this May, in May 2012 or not at all. And, in future years, students “will always be able to have the choice,” Registrar Aaron Aure said.

Now, Academic Affairs is working to determine who will graduate in December and to inform students of their new options. To do this, Aure is using credit hours as data.

December graduates will not fill out their applications until the fall, but the Registrar still needs to compile a complete list – especially because some may choose to participate in the May ceremony.

WebAdvisor and MyState are both tools Aure is using to inform the potential graduates.

“The main group we’re trying to get in touch with is those that want to walk this spring,” Aure said.

SDSU will be the only university in the regental system to not have a fall ceremony – at least at this point. But some universities, like Montana State University, have never had a fall ceremony.

Jill Thorngren is MSU’s associate dean for the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences. She said the individual colleges will host their own celebrations, so a university-wide celebration in December is not needed.

“I don’t think they miss it,” Thorngren said. “They’ve never had it; they’ve never asked for it.”

Thorngren will take a position at SDSU as the dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences on May 23. Also, in 2009 she was part of a fellowship program at Utah State University.

Like at SDSU, budget cuts led USU to eliminate its December ceremony. 2010 was its first year without one.

“They were canceling it because the turnout was really low, and the cost was really high,” Thorngren said.

Derek Kramer is a senior graphic design major who may be graduating in December. Having always assumed he could walk in December, he is not in favor of the decision.

“I think it’s just kind of unfair,” Kramer said. “I realize the cost of it is the main reason, but I think they have to look at what they’re doing to those students who really don’t have any other options but to graduate in December.”

This May, SDSU’s graduation ceremony will be run as usual. However, “we are actually going to start in some fairly significant changes in 2012,” Nichols said.

While nothing is certain at this point, one potential change is making the ceremonies college-specific rather than having the whole ceremony as a whole university.

“I think we’re probably at the verge of doing something like that,” Nichols said. “I think this change will prompt other changes.”