After working to earn her master’s degree in occupational therapy since Fall 2016, Stephanie Robertson won’t walk across the stage of the O’Connell Center this December like she planned.
It’s not because she missed an assignment or failed an exam. In fact, it’s a situation all graduating students will find themselves in after UF announced that it’s changing the way commencement is run.
Starting in December, students from every college will now attend one university-wide commencement ceremony together in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, said Stephanie McBride, director of commencement. This ceremony will have a choir, an orchestra, speakers and UF will confer the degrees, but students will not be individually recognized. Each individual college will also have the option to hold their own separate ceremony where students can be recognized. The change doesn’t apply to doctoral students.
“(Colleges) can celebrate how they choose to,” McBride said. “They will have more freedom to make those ceremonies look how they want them to look.”
UF came under fire for their commencement procedures after a graduation marshal aggressively rushed students across the stage during this year’s Spring commencement. McBride said that wasn’t the only reason the structure was changed.
The previous commencement structure was trying to accomplish too many things at once and isn’t sustainable for UF’s growing population, McBride said.
“There needed to be a way of addressing the fact that we were going to bust at the seams,” she said.
This December, 14 of the 16 colleges will be holding their own ceremonies in various buildings including the Reitz Union and the O’Connell Center, except the Levin College of Law and College of Dentistry continue to have their own ceremonies and are unaffected by any of the changes McBride said.
McBride has already received some emails expressing concerns about the change.
She believes holding the large ceremony outdoors and creating two separate ceremonies are the primary causes of people’s frustrations.
UF created a task force to review the graduation ceremonies, said David Parrott, the vice president for Student Affairs. They are aiming to balance efficiency, tradition and celebration.
“The goal is to have ceremonies that celebrate and are meaningful for all graduates,” he said.
Robertson has decided to forego the big ceremony in the stadium. She’ll attend her college’s individual ceremony instead.
“Without that individual recognition, I really don’t see a point in going,” the 31-year-old said. “I think that’s a big part of the UF experience, is getting to walk on that big stage in front of a large crowd in front of all of your family and friends.”
This article has been corrected because a source misspoke. The Levin College of Law does have graduates in both Fall and Spring, but they are on a different time schedule and do not participate in the university commencement ceremonies.