The decision to move commencement from campus to the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel has sparked mixed reactions among the graduating class.
According to Bernadette McVey, director of Academic Events, Initiatives and Planning, Seton Hall has been talking to the PNC Bank Arts Center about hosting graduation there since last Wednesday, Feb. 22.
When asked how SHU decided upon PNC, McVey said via email, “The main factors were availability, its beauty and it is big enough to accommodate our commencement.”
McVey said there could be other changes as well. She said that having a commencement speaker “is under consideration.”
McVey said she is excited that SHU has an outdoor arena. “I spoke with Monmouth University and our Law School (Monmouth uses PNC and our Law School used for several years) and both love this venue and had nothing but positive things to say,” she said.
Since PNC is an outdoor arena, the possibility of bad weather on May 15 could cause disruptions. McVey said she hopes “that it will be a beautiful sunny day,” although she concedes that no one can control the weather. She added that she will not know the total cost of renting the venue until after May.
“It is my hope that the University has made the students and their families happy,” McVey said.
Graduating triplets Adrianna, Anthony and Leo Bertoldi are especially grateful that they will all be able to graduate together. The three were previously set to graduate in separate ceremonies, which they said posed a hardship for their family.
Adrianna, a nursing major, said in an email interview, “We’re extremely excited for the new location of graduation! It was a wonderful surprise!”
The Bertoldi’s grandparents originally would not have been able to attend the ceremony at campus because they would have had to sit through three ceremonies in one day. Now the entire family can be there for a single ceremony, Adrianna said.
“I’m just excited to have the graduation the Class of 2017 deserves,” Adrianna added. “We’re a pretty close senior class, so being able to graduate with our friends in other schools is a sentimental and happy way to end our college careers.”
She added that, “PNC Bank Arts Center is an ideal location for the families and graduates. Even though it’s a little bit farther away, everyone (seniors and their families) is more than willing to travel the distance.”
On the factors that led to this change in location, Adrianna credits Student Government Association President Teagan Sebba with making sure the senior class’ voices are heard. In addition, Adrianna said that “the disappointment from the student body and parents also played a huge factor.”
Her brother Anthony, a sports management and marketing major, said that graduation being moved to PNC is “a really pleasant surprise.” He added, “I’m happy that the school finally worked something out where it could be off campus and now everyone can actually come.” Now all of the seniors’ families and friends can come to see everyone graduate, he said.
Asked what he thinks prompted the University to move graduation, Anthony said that a previous article in The Setonian about his siblings and him being split into three different ceremonies helped because not many people knew about his family’s situation before that. He added that “the overwhelming discourse and everyone (students of all grades) being upset” also added to the decision to change graduation. He also said Sebba did a good job and made sure she was in constant contact with the senior class.
Anthony said there has not been a commencement speaker in years and while he would like one, he says people “can’t be too nitpicky.” He said, “I’m just happy it (graduation) got moved to a venue that’s off campus, somewhere that’s a little bit better for everyone in regards to not limiting the amount of people that could even come to the event.”
According to the email sent out by the Office of the Provost on Friday, Feb. 24, graduates will each be given four guest tickets for seating in the covered amphitheater and an unlimited number of guest tickets for lawn seating.
Leo Bertoldi, a history major with a political science minor, also said he is happy that graduation has been moved. “It shows the school still cares about our options and wishes as students and wants us to have a proper graduation after four years of hard work,” he said in an email interview.
He would still like to have a commencement speaker, saying that other Universities have speakers like politicians, activists and actors who deliver speeches that contain life lessons.
Edward Chu, a senior Asian studies major, said people are excited that the seniors will graduate together as the Class of 2017. Chu and his friends were worried about how SHU would be able to accommodate everyone, especially the elderly and those disabled, when gradation was previously split up into three ceremonies on campus, he said via email.
Seniors were not originally pleased with graduation being held on campus, he said, since people couldn’t graduate with their friends. “I felt the same way too,” Chu said, because, “I have a few high school friends I graduated with” who also attend SHU and are graduating.
“We (Class of 2017) tried to find alternative venues and solutions to make things work out in the end,” Chu said.
Christina Dunham, a senior environmental studies major, said her high school graduation was supposed to be held at PNC, but it was moved. “This is an opportunity for me to have graduation near home, as well as walk across a stage that many famous singers have performed on,” Dunham said via email. She lives in Middletown, which she said is a town over from Holmdel, N.J. where PNC is located.
Not all students are pleased with the change in location.
Gabriel Fiore, a senior public relations major and first-year graduate student, would have preferred for commencement to be held on SHU’s campus.
“I wasn’t happy it (commencement) wasn’t at the Prudential Center, but I was happy it was on campus,” Fiore said. He added that holding graduation on campus would have given a feeling of home.
“I spoke to my mother about my grandparents going to an outdoor ceremony and she said they probably wouldn’t be able to do it,” Fiore said. He explained that it may be hot outside the day of graduation and it’s not good if his grandparents have to walk far. One of his grandparents has heart failure and trouble getting around.
In addition, Fiore is also upset that the location of graduation has been moved again because he lives in North Arlington, which is around 55 minutes away from the PNC Bank Arts Center. “The traffic of getting there with everyone will be a nightmare with everyone on the Parkway,” he said, adding that he only lives about 25 minutes away from Seton Hall.
“The school realizes they messed up,” Fiore said. “I think this is a last minute decision to please everyone.”
Samantha Todd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.