By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – At a recent meeting with the city and Downtown Davis, it was noted that UC Davis officials plan to move UCD’s June commencement ceremonies to Sacramento beginning next June.
UC Davis had surveyed the students and found that 53 percent preferred moving the ceremonies to the Golden 1 Center while about 35 percent preferred keeping the ceremonies on the UC Davis campus.
A big factor for the students of course is the size of the venue. At the Golden 1 Center, they would be able to invite at least six guests. On the UC Davis campus, they would be limited to four.
This would allow the university to avoid the problems of last year, where excessive heat in early June forced cancellations of ceremonies.
For some, of course, the commencement ceremonies both in December and June created congestion—traffic and parking problems, inability to get hotel rooms and restaurants.
But for the business community they are a huge boon.
DDBA executive director Brett Maresca said at a meeting this week, that these ceremonies “provide a major boon to the economy heading into the slower summer months once the vast majority of UCD students leave town.”
He added, this “was kind of a shock to the system initially, of our city not being able to provide accommodations for thousands of people and families that is so important for our business community… It’s a bit scary, honestly, for that week.
“And while, of course, a lot of picture-taking is going to be done, especially in the arboretum,” Maresca said, “it still is going to leave a few days… of business and an enormous amount of money going into a different city than ours.”
Councilmembers expressed concern about the move.
Outgoing Councilmember Dan Carson noted, “(As) part of our symbiotic relationship here between the city and the campuses, we’re looking for every opportunity we can to benefit both that sense of community that we have, but also very directly our local business community.”
I am sure a lot of community members will have a ho-hum reaction to this news. As noted, summer commencements are disruptive to the community. A lot of people know to avoid Russell Blvd. and the downtown and restaurants around the time, to avoid the crowds and long waits.
But for a business community already living on the margins, this is a potential death blow.
Personally, I think there is more to this than what has been shared.
Clearly the university had to do something, as heat forced cancellations and postponements of ceremonies last June. Moreover, as climate change continues to progress, the problem is going to get worse, not better. So making plans to bring the ceremonies indoors is a no-brainer.
But here’s the thing: four versus six guests is not a game-changing difference. Nor was the vote overwhelming. Fifty-three percent is a bare majority. Thirty-five percent opposed the move, but also another 12 percent apparently did not care.
And that is of the people who responded to the survey.
Getting 833 responses is not bad for a survey. But it’s still a very small percentage of the overall student body of nearly 40,000 students. It’s just over 2 percent of the student population.
So basically the university, without discussing or consulting with the city, plans to move the ceremonies to Sacramento, deal a huge blow to businesses in Davis, and is using a survey whose results are not exactly overwhelming as justification.
I could be wrong, but this appears yet again another effort by the university to start shifting the investment and sizable economic impact out of Davis and toward Sacramento.
We have seen a long series of these moves which included the placement of the UC Medical Center in Sacramento, the development of Aggie Square in Sacramento, the expansion of the Sacramento Campus, and the non-involvement in the local efforts for an innovation park and the like.
As much as certain councilmembers tout their collaboration with the university, the message here is not really that subtle—Davis is not a reliable partner, we are going to shift our impact and growth elsewhere.
And they know that most people will not care about this move and some may even be glad it’s happening because, as noted above, the commencements are a pain for the local town population that is not tied to hotel and restaurant businesses.
But this is another blow to those vulnerable businesses, many of whom have suffered badly under COVID and are living on the margins.
We will see what transpires and whether the city can get the university to walk this one back.