Birds are chirping, students are once again running about campus, and the Class of 2023 is preparing for their commencement in May. Recently, it was announced that the ceremony will once again be held in the courtyard between Belk Dining Hall and Johnson Hall. This is a major groan for the Class of 2023, which has endured major economic, political and social changes on top of a pandemic for all four years of college.
Now, I am sure we are well aware of the problems and potential follies that plague this venue choice since this is the third year of commencement in the courtyard. There are just a few things about this venue that leave me feeling less than enthused when thinking about commencement in May.
Prior to moving to the courtyard, Meredith’s graduation took place on the island in the amphitheater on campus, at Dorton Arena and in Reynolds Coliseum. While both were okay venues at the time, I argue they also were not the right choice for the backdrop of Meredith students’ graduation.
The amphitheater lacked accessibility, and the crowding hundreds of graduates and their families in the North Carolina heat into a building with no air conditioning proved to be disastrous. In truth, I am partially writing this article to bring attention to the fact that Meredith doesn’t really have a special accessible place on campus for us to graduate beyond the courtyard.
So what’s my problem with the courtyard? Let’s start with the visuals. While Johnson Hall is an integral building during students' time here at Meredith, I can’t imagine that most imagined graduating behind it on its patio when they thought of their college graduation. Let's be honest here: it’s the back of a big brick building; nothing about it screams visual interest.
Additionally, the rumored rain plan from last year was disastrous. In the event of rain, students were to be rushed into Jones Auditorium and given one ticket to allow one guest of their choosing into the auditorium. Had it rained, this would have been disastrous for all involved since the graduates were given six tickets each. Guests who couldn't fit in Jones would have been directed to other locations on campus to watch the graduation via live stream.
This plan is not ideal—it forces the graduates to separate from the people who are coming to celebrate them. This rain plan would not even have to be a possibility if we had a dedicated indoor space on campus that is capable of hosting bigger events similar to graduation.
Six guest tickets per graduate seems a bit low for the number of graduates actually graduating in May. I personally want eight members of my family to be present on my graduation day. Since there are two ceremonies, I feel it isn’t impossible to accommodate extra seating especially since not every graduate will use all of their tickets. I do want to reiterate that ticket numbers have not yet been announced, but I do hope that they take into consideration that families have different needs.
I hope that one day Meredith has a more dedicated space for graduation, but no matter what graduation looks like I hope this year’s commencement is everything the Class of 2023 has been looking forward to!
By Rachel Van Horne, Senior Associate Editor