After seeing and hearing from countless students about the five ticket limit for commencement, ASUWT held a survey to get a better understanding of where UWT students stand on the issue.
UWT’s social media posts, student government announcements, and multiple UWT 411 emails were sent out campus-wide, encouraging all students regardless of class to take the survey.
The survey reached a population of 565 respondents, and had a confidence level of 99% with a 5.1% margin of error. The survey ended with an invitation for students to further share their comments with the Commencement Committee, which is in charge of commencement activities.
Of the 565 participants, 295 chose the option to comment (53%) resulting in over 20 pages of responses from both graduating and non-graduating students.
In the “Qualitative Findings” section on the Analysis Survey, ASUWT found that 49% of those participating in the survey would need at least five to nine tickets, and 40% of students would prefer more than nine tickets.
“It was evident to me that this issue was more than just tickets. It’s about whether students’ families and their support network—the people who have helped them get through school. In their [students’] eyes, those networks are not being supported,” says ASUWT Director of Finance Bronwyn Clarke, who also prepared the survey analysis.
At the end of the original survey students were given the option to participate in an optional qualitative survey. Of the 565 total students, 295 participated in the second option (53%). Students who decided to take the extra portion were asked to explain why the ticket issue was or was not an issue for them.
From their 20 pages of responses ASUWT was able to construct six main discourses—written or spoken communications or debates—by comparing the commonalities in each of the 295 individual personal statements. From those responses, ASUWT was able to form the six discourses to present to the commencement committee.
FIVE TICKETS IS NOT ENOUGH
195 of the 295 (66.2%) respondents expressed that the infant policy and overall ticket process was insufficient.
FAMILIAL SUPPORT/NON-NUCLEAR FAMILY/SUPPORT NETWORK
108 of 295 (36.6%) respondents referenced the importance of their families helping them to achieve their education. In this section, it is also noted that many non-traditional students will be graduating, resulting in larger families than the typical nuclear family (2-3 kids).
61 of 295 (20.6%) declared that they were dissatisfied with the planning process of the venue selection. Three sub-themes were established based off on this discourse: a. 11 students thought the ticket requirement for infants was “ridiculous and ludicrous” (page 8); b. Four students suggested the 9 am start time was inconvenient; c. two students requested more thoughtful consideration of disability accessibility accommodations.
FIRST GENERATION GRADUATES
53 of 295 respondents (18%) stated that their experience in being the first in their family to graduate from college shaped their views on whom they wanted to share it with.
28 of 295 (9.4%) gave additional comments as to how the Committee could structure the event differently.
OUT OF STATE
20 students said that their families previously purchased—before the five ticket limit was announced in February—their plane tickets and are traveling from out of state and/or country to attend the ceremony. According to the survey, “several of them (students) stated that because of this, they were against changing the ceremonies time/date.”
The Analysis Survey ends with all of the qualitative responses and a summary of the study.
Part two of the report is the recommendations ASUWT has for the Commencement Committee. In this portion of the report, ASUWT recommends a venue change to hold commencement at the Stadium Bowl, an outdoor venue.
According to the report, the Stadium Bowl is open the day of Commencement (Friday, June 10th). The venue cost is $300 an hour; with nine hours of set-up it would cost approximately $2,700. With other fees (maintenance, utility, security) the total cost would come to approximately $3,700.
“I would just like the Committee to see the Stadium Bowl as a viable option for the ceremony,” says Clarke.
According to the report, last year’s graduating seniors requested 10,795 tickets. The Tacoma Dome has a capacity (when only half is utilized) of 7,234. Under the current agreement, UWT is only approved to use half of the Dome. The report states that the Stadium Bowl solves the commencement ticket issue as they provide well over 12,000 seats. However, it is noted that it is an outdoor venue, thus, it is subjective to inclement weather. Parking would also be an issue, as the North End is limited in space. Only 300 spaces would be available; however, ASUWT states they are in talks with charter buses.
ASUWT will also make a push for at least two students on the commencement committee—where there are none currently. According to Clarke, the committee was, “very receptive,” and “it was something they had never really thought about.”
ASUWT is pushing for reform for the class of 2016. “This is really fundamentally about the University of Washington Tacoma’s identity and whether the programs and ceremonies we [UWT] have reflect the identity,” says Clarke.
The 20 pages of qualitative responses made it simpler for ASUWT to examine the core issues of the commencement problem. “We think that students’ voices—at all times—need to be recognized and respected. So the way I approached the survey analysis was that; letting those voices speak for themselves. I think that students have unique and compelling stories that need to be heard,” says Clarke.
Clarke spoke about UWT “walking the talk” in the recommendation report, saying UWT needed to be held to what they advertise: being the gateway for education in the South Sound. Clarke said that UWT needed to uphold their non-traditional educational style. She says, “When I spoke about ‘walking the talk’ it’s also about who UWT is as a university. We are a university who has transfer students, married students with kids, even people with grandchildren.”
At the moment, Clarke advises students to do two things to make their voices heard on the topic: 1. Read both reports, get a deeper understanding of the issue at hand, not just what is being posted on Facebook; and 2. Email the commencement committee, whose emails are listed on the report and communicate that you understand the complexities of the issue, but would also like to expand on the recommendations laid by ASUWT.
“For it to come directly into their inboxes is just one way to make it immediate to them,” says Clarke.