The word graduation brings to mind images of success, commemoration, and celebration with friends and family and peers—an exciting milestone.
Generally, even students with a few remaining credits are still able to walk at graduation and celebrate with their classmates, and then finish course requirements in the following summer or fall quarters.
This year, however, the administration is making changes that will limit the exceptions made for students with outstanding credits. In previous years, students could walk at graduation with 18 credits remaining to complete a degree, but this year the administration is changing that policy from 18 to 10 credits, and will only make exceptions for serious cases.
Essentially, unless a student is able to complete his or her degree requirements in the summer quarter following commencement, that student will not be able to attend commencement until the following June. The number of students who will be affected by this policy change is unclear, but Andrew Anderson of the Registrar’s office estimates that it will be about 100 to 125 students.
“The Office of Academic Affairs feels that this should be a meaningful ceremony—it should be a ceremony where students participate who are very close to graduation; in other words, within 10 credits,” said Charles Lawrence, the associate provost for academic achievement at Seattle U. “In some sense, the issue is: what is the meaning and significance of this ceremony?”
This is an issue that has a long history of change.
According to Anderson, the Attend Commencement with Deficiencies policy was created in 1983. In 2011, about 200 students were allowed to walk at graduation with outstanding credit deficiencies.
But many didn’t see the policy as fair.
This year, the issue was discussed by the administration before a decision was made, but neither the student body nor student government was approached about the discussion. When the announcement about the policy change was made, students resisted quickly and in great numbers.
“We had an overwhelming response from students,” said Student Government of Seattle University (SGSU) President Eric Chalmers, when asked about the request for signatures on a petition to challenge the policy change. A petition requires at least 500 electronic signatures before being brought before the administration.
“We’ve gotten 660 responses, I think, on this petition, and all but 10 have been in agreement with the petition,” Chalmers said.
There are various reasons why students seek exceptions to the credit limit policy. Many are caused by study abroad, which often requires extra time to finish course requirements. Other students have to take time off during undergraduate years for hardship withdrawals due to disability or family emergency. The students who are against the change to a 10 credit limit believe that students should not be prevented from graduating with their classmates for such reasons.
Another argument is for international students, who are required by law to leave the U.S. within a certain number of days after finishing classes. If these students finish during fall or winter quarters, they won’t be able to walk at all unless they were allowed to do so the previous spring.
Now that SGSU has collected the required amount of signatures, the issue has been brought to the attention of the administration, specifically Provost Isiaah Crawford. According to Chalmers, the administration has been cooperative and helpful while discussing student concern. Chalmers also noted that it’s not too late for students to sign the petition or speak up about the issue because a final decision has yet to be made.
According to a student involved with the issue who wished to remain anonymous, revisions may have already been made to the petition after a few initial meetings, although we were unable to confirm the revision with an administrator. Students must finish credit requirements by the following fall quarter or winter quarter in the case of international students.
“It’s important to me that the ritual of commencement includes everyone who is essentially almost graduated,” said Brooke Burns, another student involved in the issue through her role as an Ignatian Leader. “I understand that a lot of the feelings for a very strict commencement policy come from the fact that it is a ritual of completion—you come in as a student and you leave a member of the academy. Everyone takes that seriously and that means a lot to a lot of students… I hope for a change that’s not radical, a change that’s inclusive that really builds around Redhawk tradition. I hope that [Crawford] recognizes that we’re making a change in that direction and that he can move with us. I do want to express my confidence in him.”