Traditions at graduation studied by UA

By Jennifer Amsler
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, October 19, 2004

ASUA senators and representatives from UA colleges will present a plan to administration Thursday on how students can retain commencement traditions while still behaving appropriately, an agreement ASUA senators and administrators came to when the university-wide December commencement was reinstated.

"We need to come up with a plan that will be effective," said Alistair Chapman, Associated Students of the University of Arizona president. "We need to give them as much feedback as possible."

The Commencement Policy Committee met last night to discuss potential solutions to combat disruptive behavior at the university-wide commencement ceremony and will meet again tomorrow to get final suggestions from students before the plan is presented in a closed meeting with administration Thursday.

The committee agreed to take a more preventative approach to commencement behavior problems instead of threatening graduates with punishments.

They addressed the tortilla-throwing problem, a tradition that some find offensive and disrespectful to students and guests.

One alternative suggested at the meeting was to create new traditions, such as blowing bubbles or having a food bank that would collect tortillas.

Another suggestion was to have graduates put on their robes at the door.

"This would eliminate the possibility for students hiding things like tortillas under their robes," Chapman said.

The committee discussed having UA juniors at the door to help graduates assemble their robes. Another suggestion was to have increased security at commencement. Chapman said security would monitor all in attendance, because he said many behavior problems in the past couple of years have been from the audience, not the graduates.

The committee also talked about preventative measures before the day of commencement.

ASUA senator Steven Eddy suggested a member from each college address graduates and explain the importance of good behavior.

"It would be a peer-to-peer approach. Responses would lie of the students," he said.

Eddy said students behave poorly at commencement because rules haven't been enforced before. Since students almost lost their university-wide commencement in December, he said graduates are more likely to follow rules.

"Now, the threat of not having a commencement is more real than ever," Eddy said.

In an agreement signed by President Peter Likins and Chapman in September, the two agreed to work together to establish strict guidelines for commencement.

"We have agreed that university commencements cannot continue unless we can anticipate improvements in decorum and the respect shown for students, families and guests. We recognize the need to work together closely to achieve this objective," the agreement stated.

Since then, ASUA established the committee to represent the interests of students.

A student representative from each college was chosen to be a part of the committee. The members in attendance at last night's meeting included Shamarie Black of the College of Agriculture, Shawn Flaherty of the College of Social and Behavior Sciences and James Eddy, a representative for graduate students.

The committee will meet with the representatives from the other colleges tomorrow night at 7 in the ASUA offices on the third floor of the Student Union Memorial Center.