Senior Celebration Aims to Unify Colleges

In an attempt to attract more prominent speakers for undergraduate graduation ceremonies, the A.S. Council recently announced the reintroduction of a campuswide baccalaureate — known as the Senior Celebration — to supplement the six individual college graduations.

Chancellor Marye Anne Fox has charged the Senior Celebration Planning Committee, co-chaired by Biological Sciences Senator Emma Sandoe and Associate Vice Chancellor of University Communications Stacie A. Spector, to oversee preparations for the celebration.

The proposal for an all-campus graduation was prompted by last year’s Undergraduate Student Experience and Satisfaction report, which emphasized student desire for more campuswide traditions to improve the university’s overall atmosphere.

“We realized that students wanted the opportunity for all colleges to come together and celebrate,” Sandoe said. “A lot of people thought it was a good idea and the administration has been very cooperative.”

Inadequate funding has consistently been an issue with graduation ceremonies. According to former Eleanor Roosevelt College Senior Senator Erik Rodriguez-Palacios, who helped lead the push for a unified baccalaureate last year, funding has not increased in several years though student fees have continued to rise.

Support for the campuswide celebration, however, has proven relatively high. The planning committee has received $25,000 each from the A.S. Council, the chancellor’s office, and the vice chancellor of external relations’ office. The group is also anticipating further contributions from the vice chancellor of student affairs’ office.

The all-campus event will not replace individual college graduations, but aims to give graduating students the opportunity to celebrate together, regardless of their college.

“I think that graduations last quarter were appropriate for the level of ceremony,” Rodriguez-Palacios said. “My college only had student speakers, which was fine, but if we want to attract more high-profile speakers, we’ll need a bigger audience.”

UCSD held five all-campus baccalaureates in the mid-1990s that successfully recruited prominent speakers such as former President Bill Clinton, former Sen. Bob Dole, Qualcomm CEO Irwin Jacobs and social activist Patch Adams. Last year, individual college commencement speakers included actor James Avery, film producer and alumnus Thom Sherman, two professors and four UCSD students.

“I went to most of the ceremonies last year, and while the speakers were all amazing, I can’t remember any of their names,” Sandoe said. “I’m envious of the past years who heard from Bill Clinton or other universities that are congratulated by very inspiring public speakers. I feel that it is very important to students to get the large-scale graduation that a UCSD education deserves.”

The planning committee is comprised of 11 undergraduate students, one graduate student, Alumni Association representatives and several provosts. The committee held its first meeting on Oct. 3.

University administrators recently announced that although Spring Quarter classes end June 13 next year, individual college commencements will be delayed until June 21 and June 22 due to conflicts in hotel and parking availability with the U.S. Open, which will be held at La Jolla’s Torrey Pines Golf Course the preceding week. The all-campus baccalaureate is scheduled for June 20.