February 5, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 39°F


Open Letter: Graduates should walk at Commencement

Two months ago, a parent said that her first child graduated from Ithaca and she was very disappointed when students didn’t walk. She said it was her dream to see her freshman daughter walk and have her name read at Commencement.

In response, we started a petition for Ithaca College graduates to walk and have their names read at Commencement and received an outpouring of support from across the Ithaca community. Students, parents, friends, relatives, alumni and staff signed our petition and expressed their sincere desire to see graduates have their accomplishments properly acknowledged.

Speaking for all parents, Jameliah Jones commented, “That’s every parent’s dream to see their child walk across the stage and hear their name called at their college graduation!” Lindsey Lack added, “I’m signing because I already graduated from Ithaca and it didn’t feel like a real graduation because we stood up and sat back down. We didn’t even know when to throw our caps in the air. It just didn’t feel complete.”

Students put in thousands of hours of hard work, and families sacrifice much, to graduate college. Graduation is an important rite of passage, closing the door on one phase of life and opening the door to another. As such, we believe it is essential to properly celebrate and acknowledge this accomplishment.

We reached out to President Collado and opened a very productive dialogue with the administration that has resulted in steps being taken to make this dream a reality.

The administration will be holding an “Open Discussion” this Wednesday November 15 at 5:30 pm in Emerson to discuss the proposed changes. They are also sending a survey to the Ithaca community to gauge sentiment on the issue.

We are, therefore, asking the entire Ithaca community to support our goal of having Ithaca graduates walk and have their names read at Commencement and to show your support at the upcoming discussion and in the survey.

Certain concerns have been raised, particularly time, but there are a number of options on the table that attempt to balance the sincere desire of students and their families to be recognized and the time this would take.

The two primary options, either of which we support, are:

  1. Separate School Ceremonies: From our perspective, school ceremonies would seem to offer the best balance between recognition and time, not extending the main ceremony, while allowing graduates to walk and be recognized by their closest friends, family and peers. This would not extend the main ceremony and would be a great opportunity to celebrate together and show school pride. An October 4th editorial in The Ithacan stated, “Calling names at a smaller, school-specific event would be a best-of-both-worlds solution, recognizing individuals for their accomplishments while keeping the commencement ceremony a
    reasonable length.”
  2. Walking and Reading Names during the Main Ceremony: While this is traditional at most colleges, it would add significant time to the main ceremony at Butterfield Stadium. After thousands of hours put into earning a degree, not to mention the sacrifices of families who come from all over the country and world to celebrate this
    moment of pride, we don’t think this is excessive, but for those concerned about time, we ask them to support school ceremonies, which would be shorter and offer an additional opportunity to celebrate.

In our work with President Collado and the administration, we have received nothing but respect and diligent effort in working to resolve this complex issue. In an age where rhetoric and debates can often get ugly, we hope that this attitude of civil dialogue, respect, openness and cooperation can serve as a model for how we address our common problems.

We also hope that the entire Ithaca community will join us and support the dream of Ithaca graduates walking and having their names read at Commencement.


Scott Wolfel on behalf of the Ithacans for Commencement Reform