THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - It’s nine weeks until graduation at California Lutheran University — a big day. But, there’s a big debate on where to have the ceremony.
"We feel that as a class of 2022 we’ve been through a lot over the past four years," senior Rylie Beaty says. She and her classmate Madi Wells say that after COVID led to remote learning and the cancellation of all kinds of college events it’s time for something normal.
"So we want to be together. We want to walk together," into graduations. Not a graduation at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, which is what’s planned right now, but one at their own football field, like what used to be done before COVID. Last year’s graduation was drive-in movie style at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. If it is held there this year the school’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Leanne Neilson, says it would be more of a stage and audience event.
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"I think we all desire that normalcy and to be sent off with that one experience that we all look forward to at the end of four years," Wells said. The two students started a petition to get the school to reconsider its graduation plans. They saw other on-campus events returning to normal so, why not graduation?
Dr. Neilson says, "First and foremost we want the best experience for our students that they can possibly have." She says when they signed a contract with the fairgrounds they didn’t know what was going to be going on with COVID. With a relaxation of the public health protocols, she says a change is possible. According to Neilson, "We are now checking logistics; seeing if we could switch to here (the school’s football stadium). We are putting out a survey to our student leadership actually this afternoon asking them as the student leaders on campus to vote on which they want."
Meanwhile, students Beaty and Wells wait for the results of the survey but hope the school will return graduation to Cal Lutheran’s football stadium.
"Cal Lutheran is our home, and we don’t want to go 40 miles away to a parking lot where we have such a prestigious campus," Beaty said.
The Provost says the results of the survey of student leadership should be ready by Friday. Hopefully, at that point they’ll have a decision on where to have graduation. One interesting point: The student-petition has over 2,000 signatures. There are 1,300 graduates, but because the petition was done on social media, apps and websites it's not completely clear how many actual graduating students signed the petition. That’s why Cal Lutheran is surveying the elected student leadership.
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