Students want fall commencement back


The South Dakota State University student body did not get a choice when fall commencement was removed from the school budget in 2010, and some students want it back.

“The biggest thing was that it just ended, there was just nothing,” Kristine Ebbinga, a recent December graduate and art education major, said. “Even though I still live in town, it’s like, I’m already done.”

The graduation ceremony was removed due to a 10 percent budget cut SDSU experienced six years ago. During an economic crisis, the governor indicated all public universities needed to remove 10 percent of the costs from their budget.

Comparatively, University of South Dakota has a winter graduation ceremony.

“Everybody needed to participate, including my office,” Provost Laurie Nichols said. “As we were looking at where we could get the most efficiencies, we decided to go ahead and cut fall commencement.”

Nichols was unable to provide an exact figure for how much SDSU spent on fall commencement, but she estimated the university was spending approximately $25,000. 

The university opted to get rid of the ceremony rather than provide a smaller commencement.

“You can’t really make a small commencement, you either do it or you don’t,” Nichols said.

About 300 students graduate in fall versus the 1,200 students in the spring. The cost of the fall and spring commencement was the same, but only one quarter of the students were graduating in the fall.

Nichols said the spring commencement has been enhanced and estimates it now costs around $30,000 partly due to the splitting of the ceremonies.

Some of the costs that go into the commencement:

-Daktronics scoreboard

-Renting Frost Arena

-Set up and tear down for facilities

-Printing programs

-Upgrading banners

-Replacing old items (this year new curtains)

-Emergency Medical Technicians

-Police on staff

Due to the absence of a fall commencement, students graduating in the summer or fall semesters are encouraged to participate in the spring commencement before or after their actual graduation date.

Certain colleges, such as the College of Engineering and College of Nursing also hold their own, smaller graduation ceremonies for students.

Paige Bourne graduated fall 2015 with a major in animal science. Like many, she decided to partake in the spring commencement.

“Honestly, I want to get my money’s worth for attending college,” Bourne said. “I wanted to be able to walk with those I came into college with in May, but also upon my parents urging me to walk across the stage.”

However, this may present an issue for some. Walking in the spring commencement is not always an option for graduates.

“I think a lot of students do choose the opportunity to walk in May either before or after they officially graduate, but for some of them, I don’t think it’s always possible if you move away,” said Ashley Tonak, state and local government chair of the Students’ Association.

Students initially disliked the idea of getting rid of fall commencement, but there are no longer any complaints, Nichols said.

“The first year that we didn’t have it, there was a little push back from the students,” Nichols said. “They wanted to know why and I got a call from a couple parents.”

The university has since been without a fall commencement for five years, but some students still hope it will return.

“I would personally like to see it come back,” Tonak said. “But before that’s going to happen, the administration wants to make sure that two spring commencement ceremonies run smoothly and they have all that down before I think they would consider that.”

Tonak felt the commencement ceremony is an important part of graduating college. 

“Think of how much money every student funnels into this university and the time they spend here. I just feel like the least they can have is the recognition of the celebration of them walking and sharing that with their family and friends,” Tonak said.

Ebbinga thinks the lack of a fall commencement means much more. 

“What this message says is that December graduates are not important to the school or worth any additional effort or consideration,” Ebbinga said.