Graduation change sparks controversy

Madison Dennis | Editor-in-chief

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Paige Testerman will graduate this December. She has been planning the events around her graduation date for some time. Testerman says she can’t understand why the university hasn’t been doing the same.

When Testerman heard that Pittsburg State had changed the times for her graduation ceremony, she started changing plans right away.

“I have a few nurses in my family who had to accommodate my schedule,” said Testerman, senior in accounting. “It was going to be bad.”

On Tuesday, Dec. 6, Pitt State sent out a press release announcing that the winter commencement ceremony times had been pushed back due to a scheduling conflict with the Division II football championship, which is slated to begin at 10 a.m. Dec. 17. Pitt State has a chance to compete in the championship game depending on its performance against Delta State this weekend. Originally, Pitt State planned to offer a graduation ceremony at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, and another at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 18.

“It was a forseeable issue,” Testerman said. “I didn’t think this was the best solution.”

President Steve Scott says that after the announcement was made, the uproar that ensued made the administration realize they made the wrong decision.

“We were trying to come to a resolution to what we saw as a pretty serious conflict,” Scott said. “I can tell you right now, I acknowledge that we missed it.”

Although he says he realizes that the time change was not the correct decision, it was not one he entered into lightly.

“We were pretty thoughtful about it,” Scott said.

Scott said that he consulted his staff, December graduates, the faculty senate, the deans, KNEA, and the President’s Council before making this decision.

“We said, ‘It seems to us what we need to do is to create some different times and allow people to go to the game and come back and graduate the next day,’” Scott said. “We really tried to understand what the concerns would be and the logic behind it. We didn’t see any red flags that would say, we gotta pull back.”

Scott says that while he anticipated some concerns from students and their families with the announcement, “I don’t think we saw the passion that came from some of the responses.”

The feedback to the scheduling changes was immediate and, in some cases, vehement. The Board of Regents received multiple phone calls, as did the President’s office. KOAM news traveled to campus to cover the story, and the Pittsburg State University Facebook page had over 50 comments regarding the scheduling changes. Alumni, relatives and students all weighed in on the issue.

One Facebook user wrote “This is potentially the most disappointing thing I have ever heard about a university I once respected. I am a graduate of the university and can’t believe this is being allowed. Unless Dr. Scott gets fired over this decision, I will never again donate a single dollar to PSU because of this… I hate to root against my old alma mater, but it would be a great lesson for the idiots in charge if they lose the game on Saturday.”

However, not all responses were so polarized.

“I think it was a good call on Pitt State’s part because they had a difficult decision to make whether they kept the times the same or changed it,” said Katie Jones, graduate student in communication who is graduating this semester.

Jones says she thought some of the feedback about the change was a little harsh.

“I couldn’t believe people would write that stuff next to their name and photo,” Jones said.

Scott says that he is grateful for the response the university got.

“It was a great lesson for us, on the importance of these events,” Scott said.

The day after announcing the change, Scott and his staff held multiple meetings to evaluate whether they had made the right decision. Eventually, they decided to revise their plan. They announced that they would restore the 1 p.m. graduation ceremony and keep the 6 p.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday ceremonies, giving students the chance to decide which ceremony they would attend.

“That’s where we arrived, and we arrived there because we listened to concerns and responded to those concerns,” Scott said. “At the end of the day, we want to make our students happy, and the last few days we weren’t.”

“I didn’t think it went along with the mission and values PSU has tried to instill in us,” Testerman said. “The revision was a step in the right direction. I’m ecstatic right now.”

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