Graduation is a special day, full of jubilation and esteem. A prestigious ceremony, celebrated with the rest of your classmates in prolonged procession. The energy surrounding it is irreplicable.
Unless you go to UC Santa Cruz, in which case you get 15 minutes.
UCSC’s 2023 commencement, taking place from June 15 through June 18 at the Upper East Field, will not follow the tradition of ceremonies past. Instead, it will follow the style of commencement adopted in 2020, and what is now the permanent fixture for commencement, known as Slug Crossing.
Slug Crossing consists of multiple ceremonies hosted by each of the 10 colleges. Students will sign up for 15-minute slots to walk across the stage with up to six guests of their choosing.
“I feel like it is super underwhelming… it’s more of a photo-op, it doesn’t feel like a real graduation,” said graduating fourth-year Isabella Tuell. “I was talking to my family about [commencement], and told them, ‘you do not have to come’… it’s a lot to ask for your family to travel all the way for 10 seconds onstage.”
Slug Crossing was born out of a 2020 survey that the university circulated during the height of the pandemic which asked students what they wanted to see during a commencement. UCSC found that students primarily wanted three things: commencement held in person, on campus, and with friends and family.
Based on these key points, UCSC created Slug Crossing, and due to a generally positive reception from students based on a follow up survey, believed it was a success. Currently, commencement is being handled by University Relations.
“[Reduced structural capacity of UCSC venues] was the impetus for having to get creative,” said Associate Chancellor and Chief of Staff Anna Finn.
At the time, the West Field was the only other potential venue, but, due to a lack of American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, it was not a viable option.
However, Finn explained that Slug Crossing was not solely created as a response to the pandemic, but as a response to UCSC’s structural capacity issues. A lack of parking, limited entrances and exits to the school, and only two roadways into Santa Cruz — Highway 17 and Highway 1 — were all catalysts for Slug Crossing.
Administration is aware of the agitation of some students.
“We have talked to students for years about [Slug Crossing]… but this year a lot of people seem upset,” said Finn.
Despite this, some issues have arisen with the level of communication from administration to faculty and students. Kresge Provost Mayanthi Fernando said that there was no meeting between all campus provosts and university relations.
Fernando expanded on the lack of student awareness regarding Slug Crossing’s permanence.
“That is what is really baffling to me, when I talk to students about this, they have no idea, I was the one who had to let them know, none of them knew,” said Fernando.
According to Finn, since there wasn’t a significant change to the structure, an email confirming Slug Crossing wasn’t necessary.
Yet, Cassie Almond, a graduating senior, was not aware of the permanence of Slug Crossing.
“I honestly had no idea what was going on [for commencement],” said Almond.
Furthermore, the validity of the original surveys has been called into question.
“There is a resolution in the works from the Student Union Assembly, that refers to the two surveys and the student unease with the fact that the decisions being made for the future are based on students responses made during the pandemic,” said Merrill Provost Elizabeth Abrams.
Abrams continued that, due to the circumstances of the pandemic, Slug Crossing would have seemed preferable to nothing for students in 2020.
Student opinions will be gathered after commencement as one of the questions on an overall student poll. However, Finn expressed the difficulty of getting students to complete the poll.
“It’s hard to get students to fill out the poll once they have graduated,” said Finn.
There is currently an ongoing petition made by students to bring back the Traditional Commencement Ceremony that has over 200 signatures. Ultimately, students like Isabella Tuell are left to hope that the administration listens to their opinions for future commencements.
“I would hope that the admin would listen to students… we are close to graduation and we will not be able to change anything,” Tuell said. “Maybe in future years they will listen to the response and not make it a permanent thing.”