Earlier last week, UWT sent an email to graduating seniors stating that they will receive five tickets for the 2016 Commencement Ceremony, two less tickets than graduating seniors received last year.
At 9:30 am Friday, June 10th, the UWT Commencement Ceremony will take place in the iconic Tacoma Dome. However, the ticket change has altered many student’s perception of graduating at the venue.
The email sent to all graduating seniors reads as follows, “Due to the large number of students that are graduating and the limited capacity in the Tacoma Dome, the university will not have additional tickets available beyond the five allotted per graduating student. If additional tickets are needed, we are encouraging students to talk with their fellow graduating classmates in order to obtain any unused tickets.”
According to the UWT Commencement website, “Guests of all ages (including babies in arms/infants) are required to have a ticket. Each graduating student will receive five tickets for the 2016 Commencement Ceremony. Please note only students registered for Commencement are eligible to receive tickets.”
Many students, like UWT senior Taylor Tomlinson, have questioned why babies/infants are required to have tickets considering airlines do not require them to have tickets to board planes. Tomlinson says, “For an infant to need a ticket is ridiculous though, because they aren’t actually taking up a seat.” And, according to the Tacoma Dome website, “Admission for children varies per event, generally children under 2 years and under are free if they sit on an adult’s lap.”
As a result of the ticket reduction announcement, both graduating and non-graduating students have taken to social media showing their distaste for the change.
The UWT Class of 2016 Facebook page has been the forum students are choosing to display their feelings about the graduation change. It is a public page that has 435 members and two administrators. ASUWT has also set up a survey titled “Commencement” which can be found on their website: asuwt.org/commencement.
According to the Office of the Registrar, about 1,700 students will be participating in commencement, which is about 50 more students than last year’s. Currently, UWT only uses half of the Tacoma Dome for Commencement, which is familiar to many UWT graduates because that is exactly what they did in high school.
Shyla Shankle, a senior majoring in European History and minoring in education created an online petition— which currently has 387 signatures— for UWT students to participate and comment in regarding their feelings about the graduation change. “After I was told (by the university) that I would have to contact my other classmates for other tickets, I found that the majority of my friends needed more tickets,” says Shankle.
“I just want to be treated like I go to a real university. Just because we are a smaller campus doesn’t mean that our accomplishments are less than a bigger one,” says Shankle, “I graduated in half of the Tacoma Dome in high school. I expected that being in a university that I would be able to graduate with a larger crowd. I expected all my friends and family to get to see me, I wanted a more ‘university feel.’ ”
UWT prides itself on being the gateway for first generation college students. Of our 4,629 students, approximately 67% are first generation students. Not to mention that 60% of UWT’s population are juniors and seniors, many of whom have been very vocal about how upset they are.
“It’s very disheartening,” says Shankle, “Personally, I have a lot of family that would like to attend. Having to tell them that they can no longer go because I don’t have enough tickets is tough. Being a child of divorce I really have two families. With the five tickets I was given I have to choose between my grandma and my grandpa.”
UWT only uses half of the Tacoma Dome for commencement. With 1,700 students graduating and a maximum of five tickets per student, that equals out to 8,500 people in the Dome. The Tacoma Dome has a maximum capacity of 23,000 people.
“Being subjected to half of the dome kind of makes you feel like less of a college student,” says Shankle, who is also the first member of her family to graduate college. “When you think of graduating from college you think of a grand stadium with hundreds and thousands of people watching you. You don’t think about limiting who gets to go and who doesn’t.”
“I don’t want this in any way shape or form to feel like we are attacking UWT. Because we’re not. We love UWT. We just want to be able to share this special moment with our friends and families,” says Shankle.
UWT officials have not responded to my emails regarding this topic.