Students frustrated by crowds at general commencement

Kevin Foote/Senior Staff
2013 Commencement at Memorial Stadium

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After standing in a crowd of impatient students for more than 45 minutes, UC Berkeley student Max Murphy decided not to participate in what should have been a milestone in life: walking across the stage in his university’s commencement ceremony.

Murphy, a recent graduate in the department of molecular and cell biology, was one of 3,900 graduating students who were left frustrated with the logistics of Saturday’s general commencement, which was held at Memorial Stadium for the first time in 44 years. Many attendees reported that they waited for as long as two hours before being able to walk across the stage because of the rush of students who stood up to get in line.

“I thought commencement was really embarrassing,” Murphy said, “both for the university but also for the students who decided to act that way and mob the stage.”

Although students were supposed to rise from their seats in sequence — according to rows organized by color — many students allegedly cut to the front of the line, resulting in a large cluster of graduates at either end of the stage. While Murphy was critical of the students themselves, other students took aim at what they perceived as a lack of adequate staffing and planning for the event.

“I shouldn’t have been embarrassed at the sheer disorganization shown at commencement,” said UC Berkeley student Greg Struck, who posted a comment in the UC Berkeley Class of 2013 Facebook page that has received nearly 100 “likes” and 86 responses by fellow students sharing similar experiences.

“I paid well over $100 for tickets just as many other people did,” Struck’s popular comment reads. “Where did those funds go?”

According to UC spokesperson Jose Rodriguez, the UC Berkeley university relations department is responsible for the overall organization of commencement and worked with the Senior Class Council and Intercollegiate Athletics on planning for the day.

Rodriguez acknowledged that the “confusion caused by some students getting up before their rows were called caused frustrations” and said that the university is “listening to all feedback and working to ensure that such problems do not occur in future ceremonies.”

In addition to the problems with crowd organization, the ceremony lacked enough seats to accommodate all of the attendees. Around 20 graduates did not have seats and were asked to sit on the artificial turf floor of Memorial Stadium.

Eli Wirtschafter, one student without a seat, said that although he was “sort of amused” to be sitting on the ground and found it comfortable, some of his friends and his parents felt it was an undignified way to celebrate commencement. Wirtschafter said he looks forward to the undergraduate interdisciplinary studies commencement later this week, when he will deliver the student speech as the departmental citation winner.

Shirin Ghaffary is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected]