Students at Stony Brook University were left scratching their heads this week after officials canceled and then subsequently reinstated winter commencement within the span of 48 hours.
“In an effort to create one memorable Commencement experience for our students in May, Stony Brook University will no longer hold a December ceremony,” Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of the Undergraduate Colleges Charles L. Robbins wrote in an email sent on Monday, Feb. 26.
“By concentrating on one main event, we will be able to provide an enhanced experience for all students and their families. It is important to note that degrees will still be conferred in December, January, May and August,” he continued.
Two days later, academic advisors received another email from Robbins informing them that there would be a 2018 winter commencement after all.
“If you shared the earlier news, please provide the correction,” he wrote.
Students were informed of the news later that day via email.
Mary Bertschi, a junior marine vertebrate biology and ecosystems and human impact major had been trying to find a way to adjust her schedule in order to graduate on time when she received the second email.
“I was so upset yesterday about this decision and spent a few hours reworking the spreadsheet I have for what courses I have left,” Bertschi said. “I know commencement isn’t a big deal to some people, but it’s something I’ve really been looking forward to because I’ve worked so hard and haven’t had the easiest time making it to this point in my college career.”
Julia Saviano, a senior environmental studies major, wondered why the commencement had been called off in the first place.
“It was very upsetting to find out that they were canceling the commencement ceremony especially without even giving a reason as to why,” Saviano said.
Saviano, who had to withdraw from school due to health concerns, was finally set to graduate this fall.
“College has been pretty tough time,” Saviano said. “I’ve had a couple of hurdles that have made my college career much longer than I would have liked. Walking at graduation was the one moment I was really excited and could not wait to get the recognition that I made it, I graduated! All my hard work and persistence was worth it.”
Ayushi Arora, a senior psychology major, had to postpone her graduate school plans because of the decision.
“I was originally going to study and take the GRE this summer but because I didn’t want my commencement next May I decided to take summer classes instead and walk this May,” she said.
As an international student, Arora explained that she wasn’t sure where she would be living come next May.
“Honestly I was really mad at first because Stony always finds a way to make you stay longer,” Arora said.
Although there will definitely be a winter commencement this year, according to an email from Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education, Charles Taber, “the discussion about future December commencements has been reopened.”
When asked about the decision, Taber referred The Statesman to Senior Vice President for Government and Community Relations and Chief Deputy to the President, Judith Greiman. Greiman could not be reached for comment.
“The University will be having December commencement in the coming year and apologize for any confusion,” Alida Almonte-Giannini, media relations manager for the university, wrote in an email Thursday. She did not respond to questions about future winter commencements.
Although Bertschi was relieved that winter commencement would still be held this year, the whole ordeal left her feeling frustrated.
“I feel like it happened so fast because the school didn’t really think this through,” Bertschi said. “If it was reversed that quickly, there should’ve been more effort put into seeing how this would be received by the students.”