CLAS
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean, David Richardson, gestures to pause the commencement ceremony. Richardson announced the ceremony would be delayed by 30 minutes, but the ceremony was later moved to an inside
hallway of the stadium.

Samuel Swanson chose to sit with his fellow statistics graduates Sunday morning at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences graduation.

The 22-year-old could have chosen to sit with two other majors, mathematics or computer science, as he was graduating with three degrees. But, he chose to be called with statistics at the ceremony, because that’s where his friends were sitting, he said.

He didn’t know that choice would mean he would not be recognized on the main stage.

Instead, Swanson’s recognition occurred inside a cramped stadium corridor near the north end zone where graduates could take photos with the CLAS dean, David Richardson, and be called in a smaller recognition of names.

“It definitely felt like not nearly the same,” he said. “I mean, one, my family wasn’t able to see me do that because they were on the opposite side of the stadium at the time.”

Swanson was one of a few hundred students who did not get recognized on the main stage of the CLAS graduation in the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium after lightning caused the ceremony to be canceled.

Despite troubles with the initial ceremony, Swanson is planning to attend the makeup ceremony set for May 18 at the O’Connell Center. At least 180 other graduates have sent an RSVP for the ceremony, UF spokesperson Steve Orlando said.

However, even with the announcement of the indoors makeup ceremony, UF students are still voicing their frustrations.

Mackintosh Joachim, president of UF NAACP, issued a statement on behalf of the organization. It included demands calling for the resignation of Director of Commencements Stephanie McBride, a formal apology from the marshall who pushed several black students at the 2018 CLAS commencement and a full refund of CLAS graduates’ caps and gowns.

“I think that the makeup ceremony is a joke,” Joachim said.

As a child of immigrants, Cheyenne Cheng, a 22-year-old UF graduate with a bachelor’s in psychology, understands the importance of the ceremony for families. Cheng considers herself one of the lucky graduates who was able to walk.

But after the issues with the ceremony, Cheng crafted a list of demands in a statement released with Joachim, Anthony Rojas, a 23-year-old UF political science master’s student and leader of the university-wide commencement boycott, along with other CLAS graduates, she said.

In addition to the points listed in NAACP’s release, this statement also called for more student and family input in planning the ceremonies as well as free graduation photos for CLAS graduates.

“I specifically advocated for our own list of demands, just because I know that when it comes to institutions, they will apologize, and they will set up committees, but if you don't give them parameters to work with, you can't really hold them to anything,” she said.

Rojas also released a petition calling for the resignation of McBride, which has more than 3,100 signatures as of Monday evening.

The university does not have a response to the statements and petitions, Orlando said.

For Swanson, even with the makeup ceremony, it’s too little too late. Many of Swanson’s relatives who came to the original ceremony are from Texas and will not be able to make another, and will instead watch the livestream.

“Before the ceremony I wasn't like, ‘Oh, like graduation is something that I need to do,’” he said. “But I mean, I knew my family would want to see me graduate, so that was mainly why I went.”

Kelly Hayes is a journalism and political science junior at the University of Florida. Before becoming a staff writer at The Alligator, she wrote as a contributor, and also as the marketing intern for The Florida Museum of Natural History.