Guest Commentary: Students Angered at Commencement Cancellation, Failure to Plan for Heat

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UC Davis graduates attend commencement Friday, June 10, 2022. (UC Davis)

Letter by ASUCD President Radhika Gawde, et al

We, the Associated Students of the University of California, Davis, are disappointed by the administration’s failure to adequately plan for commencement. We share the disappointment experienced by the graduating Class of 2022 and express our support for the students and families that were impacted by this lack of foresight.

We are grateful to the UC Davis Fire Department, Fire Prevention Services, and Environmental Health and Safety for responding immediately to the heat-related health and public safety concerns, and we were glad to see that student safety was prioritized with the cancellation of the event.

However, we are frustrated that more measures were not taken beforehand to account for the high temperatures that were forecasted well in advance and consistent with historical temperatures.

Despite the heat advisory in the area, no shading was provided for graduates or their families. Additionally, the use of the football stadium, a venue with little sun protection, was clearly not an ideal choice for an outdoor ceremony in June. Many of these concerns were brought up by students in a change.org petition several months ago, without any action from the university.

While we recognize that the increasing COVID positivity rates needed to be taken into account, masking during an indoor ceremony would have been a safer option for all attendees, in comparison to an outside ceremony, given the forecasted heat concerns. Chancellor Gary S. May’s decision to pivot to a “UC Davis” commencement, instead of college commencement, to place more emphasis on our institution as a whole, is insufficient reason for the over thirty-five medical emergencies and six hospitalizations that occurred that were easily avoidable had campus administration planned for an indoor ceremony3. No commencement should lead to hospitalization or medical emergencies.

We are also disappointed in the planning and execution of the ceremony; the decision to combine six indoor ceremonies into three outdoor ceremonies was poorly implemented. Graduates and their families were asked to arrive at the venue gates at 6:00am, head to the stadium at 7:00am, and begin the ceremony at 8:00am, such that graduates could begin walking by 9:00am in order to account for the heat. However, graduates and their families only entered the stadium at 8:00am, delaying the ceremony for two hours with the ceremony beginning at 9:15am. This complete lack of organization led to confusion and frustration among the graduates and their families.

Chancellor Gary S. May and Provost Mary Croughan’s invitation to the numerous students who did not get to walk to return with their families for a separate ceremony this Sunday is insufficient. Many families and graduates are unable to attend this ceremony as many had flights scheduled immediately following today’s ceremony.

We urge University Administration to take the following actions to ameliorate this situation:

  1. Relocate the commencement ceremonies occurring on Saturday and Sunday to indoor venues to prevent further medical emergencies and hospitalizations, and to allow all graduates the opportunity to walk in the upcoming two ceremonies
  2. Collaborate with student leaders for the planning process for the two remaining commencement ceremonies
  3. Accommodate those who were unable to walk at today’s ceremony at both Saturday and Sunday’s ceremony, in addition to the special ceremony on Sunday
  4. Provide a virtual commencement option
  5. Provide a partial or complete monetary reimbursement for the caps and gowns and/or travel expenses of students who were unable to walk, as well as any medical costs for those who have been hospitalized as a result of heat-related illnesses
  6. Receive input and feedback from students and student leaders regarding the conceptualization, planning, and implementation of the 2022-2023 commencement ceremony

Sincerely,

 ASUCD President Radhika Gawde

ASUCD Vice President Joseph Eden

ASUCD External Affairs Vice President Shruti Adusumilli

Graduating ASUCD Leadership,

Former ASUCD President Kyle Krueger

Former ASUCD Internal Vice President Emily Barneond

Former ASUCD Senate President pro Tempore Kabir Sahni

Former ASUCD Senator Juan Velasco

Former ASUCD Senator Tenzin Youedon

Former ASUCD Senator Dennis Liang

Former ASUCD Senator Harris Razaqi

Former ASUCD Senator Khalil Malik

Former ASUCD Picnic Day Unit Director Amanda Portier

Former ASUCD Whole Earth Festival Unit Director Cozette Elis

Former KDVS General Manager Jaidyn Alvarez-Brigance

Former Aggie Reuse Unit Director An Do

Former ASUCD Deputy Chief of Staff/Donation Drive Committee Chairperson Michael Logoteta

Former ASUCD Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission Chairperson Jared Lopez

Former Transfer Student Representative / EAVP Chief of Staff Tariq Azim

Former OTSR Director of Communications and Outreach Momina Nadeem

Former OTSR Director of Internal Relations Jaina Jogia

Former ASUCD Academic Affairs Commission

Chairperson Navreet Hundal

In Solidarity,

GSA President-Elect Marcela Radtke

GSA External Vice President Gwen Chodur

GSA External Vice President-Elect Himali Thakur

GSA Internal Vice President Tez Stair

GSA Secretary Courtney Pollard

ASUCD Acting Senate President pro Tempore Martinez-Hernandez

ASUCD Transfer Student Representative Logan Ueno

ASUCD International Student Representative Keven Zhou ASUCD Senator Gaius Ilupeju

ASUCD Senator Francisco Ojeda ASUCD Senator Eustacio Alamilla

ASUCD Senator Zeph Schnelbach ASUCD Senator Julia Shurman

ASUCD Senator Priya Talreja

ASUCD Senator Celeste Palmer

ASUCD Interim Senator Alexis Reyes

ASUCD Internal Affairs Commission Chairperson ThuyAnh Truong

ASUCD Academic Affairs Commission Chairperson Megan Chung

Former ASUCD Leadership [2021-2022],

Former ASUCD President Ryan Manriquez

Former ASUCD Senator Owen Krauss

Former ASUCD Senator Sergio Bocardo-Aguilar

Former ASUCD Senator Ambar Mishra

Former ASUCD Senator Rashita Chauhan

Former ASUCD Environmental Policy and Planning Commission Chairperson Sydney Cliff

Former ASUCD Academic Affairs Commission Chairperson Gabriela Tsudik

Former ASUCD Interim Senator Aidan Kato

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3 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: Students Angered at Commencement Cancellation, Failure to Plan for Heat”

  1. Richard_McCann

    The easy solution was to postpone the ceremony to start at 7 pm instead. Indoors is still risky, especially for the seniors attending to watch their grandchildren. Sunday is forecasted to be much cooler, in the low 80s.

  2. David Takemoto-Weerts

    I don’t know what the UCD administration was thinking. On opening day of the stadium in September 2007, the inaugural football game was held in blistering heat in the early afternoon. 85 people treated for heat illness, 8 taken to the hospital. After that, all early season games were scheduled for the early evening. The campus would have know the forecast for Friday. Inexcusable. 

    I

  3. Bill Marshall

    So, while two of my comments are in moderation for hours, I’ll try a third… I suspect the other two will got into the ‘bit bucket’, as this my well also…can’t offend students…

    The anger, self-righteousness, of the graduates who didn’t have their ‘moment of glory’, the way they envisioned it… my heart pumps peanut butter for them… I fear their entering the workforce with the expectations that all will be ‘perfect’ in their lives…

    They will make lousy parents… if they choose to do so…

    REAL life is unpredictable, full of disappointments (and joys)… wish they had learned that… most ‘adults’ have…  should be a required course, Growing Up 101, or Being an Adult 110…

    Yes, Admin f’d up big time with the commencement, but if that is the greatest tragedy, reason to be angry, upset, xtremely frustrated, in their lives, they will be d$mn lucky… welcome to the “real world”…

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