Most students who graduate in December can’t walk in a fall commencement ceremony. The College of Liberal Arts and the College of Natural Sciences stopped hosting December commencement ceremonies in 2017. University-wide December ceremonies don’t exist. That means that many of us have to walk early or next year in May. No one gives medals to athletes who haven’t finished a race— so why would I want to be recognized at graduation when I haven’t completed all of my classes?
As student loan debt continues to climb over one trillion dollars, graduating in eight consecutive semesters can help students save money so they can begin the next phases of their life sooner. The 2012 report published by the Task Force on Undergraduate Graduation Rates encourages students to graduate in four years.
“We really want students to identify with their graduation classes,” said COLA spokesperson David Ochsner. “We canceled the December ceremony to keep focus on graduating on time and graduating in May.”
But does “on time” really mean graduating in May? Many of us have worked to graduate early, taken a semester off to pay for school or to pursue amazing opportunities that don’t fit with the academic calendar. I’m proud of graduating in December. UT should recognize these efforts by allowing us to walk during the same semester we graduate.
Moreover, hosting graduation ceremonies in May suggests that graduating in four years is the priority, intellectual curiosity be damned. Consider Colin Traver, who was prevented from walking with his preferred school because he realized his love of English literature too late. Traver took an extra semester to graduate with degrees in English and communications studies. He ended up walking in the Communications school’s fall ceremony, although he would have preferred to participate in the Liberal Arts graduation ceremony.
“I would have liked to had the option to attend a liberal arts ceremony in December,” Traver said. “I would have seen a lot of classmates who I took a lot of English courses with.”
Not every December graduate will be so lucky to be able to participate in a fall commencement ceremony. Those moments might not happen for students who can’t come back for the May graduation ceremony. Some of us might move for jobs across the country. Parents, too, would feel devastated if their children couldn’t walk in May.
Students should not have to choose between graduating in May or making the most of their college experience. The University should treat all of its graduates equally by making it easier, not harder, to celebrate finishing their time at UT. This May, I will be happy to walk across that stage to collect my diploma, and I will cherish every moment I have with them. I’ll be frustrated, but also glad to walk at all.
Wong is a Plan II and government senior. .from McKinney.