By Kara Epstein
Logos Campus Editor
For the first time in the University of the Incarnate Word’s history, graduation’s going off campus with the Sunday, May 6, spring commencement ceremony at Joe and Harry Freeman Coliseum.
No one apparently wanted to chance a repeat of last fall’s cold, damp, rainy Saturday ceremony held outdoors in Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium. As students received their diplomas that day, they left with their families and friends before the ceremony was over. Dr. Lou J. Agnese Jr., UIW president, formally issued an apology, offered $60 refunds to those that registered for the graduation and held a “makeup” reception Jan. 8.
If all goes well with the move and everyone is happy, Agnese said, Freeman Coliseum might be a permanent choice.
“The AT&T Center is just too big,” Agnese said. “It’s not the appropriate size for us. However, the size of Freeman Coliseum is perfect. It can hold 8,000 people in the stands and 1,500 on the floor. It’s big enough to accommodate everyone and it was available at a late date.”
The cost did not pay a factor either; it actually costs less to hold the graduation off campus, then on, he said.
“We’re expecting a much larger turnout because of the bigger space, families can stay longer, there will be concession stands, it’s going to be air-conditioned.”
Agnese said the venue change is happening now, rather than last May, when many complained of the heat being outside in 6,000-seat Benson Stadium.
“It’s (the stadium) too small,” Agnese said. “We’re getting too big. We have more students graduating — and that’s a good thing. This past May we had 550 walk the stage. We’re looking at the same number plus 100 relatives. We’ve outgrown the (Alice McDermott) Convocation Center and Benson Stadium.”
The May 2012 class will also be the first of the UIW alumni to not have the traditional walk-through campus before the ceremony.
“We’ll do some kind of walk-through,” Agnese said. “We’ll figure it out. We’ll make it nice.”
If students don’t like the idea of having graduation off-campus, something they can look forward to is an increase in the number of tickets – from eight to 16 – they could be issued to invite guests.
“We were down to eight tickets per family,” Agnese said. “Now we can increase it.”
Still, some students have some concerns about the venue change. Communication arts senior Connie Aguilera said moving the ceremony to any off-campus site is a bad idea. Both her brother and sister graduated on campus at UIW.
Aguilera said, “Why should we pay for a public place that’s so far away? We should at least have gotten even more tickets than what everyone else had got. Sixteen tickets are not enough for some people. I want what I paid for. What does a fee pay for, anyway? If it pays for the Freeman Coliseum, why can’t it pay for fans and more tickets? My family is very upset the graduation is held somewhere else and not at UIW.”
For those graduating in May and are still on the fence about the venue change, if there is anything to look forward to, it should be the weather will not be a problem.
“You know, 26 years before I came they had gradation in front of the Administration Building,” Agnese said. “Our luck just ran out in December. Let’s hope we get positive feedback. We’re doing this change for the students. If we get a fuller crowd, we’ll continue with it. If not, we’ll determine what happens next. This is our first attempt and we are just trying it out.”
Baccalaureate Mass will take place at 10:30 a.m., followed by commencement at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 6.