Students petition possibility of setting ticket limit

Upset about the possibility of being limited to just eight guests for graduation, a group of SHSU seniors have started a petition to seek an alternative with the university for the May 17 commencement.During a BearF.A.C.T.S Forum held on Oct. 29, Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. David Payne said the university was considering limiting the number of guests students could invite to their graduation. Payne said in the past two May ceremonies, 98 percent of the Bernard Johnson Coliseum had been filled with guests, and that limiting the number of guests will help avoid overcrowding.Many students responded to this proposition with a less than favorable reaction. One group of classmates taking an education methods course decided to petition the school to find another way to deal with the overcrowding problem.Senior Amy Webster, one of students involved in the petition, said her classmates were upset about the sudden proposition to limit tickets.”There was a lot of talk of being upset about the ticket limitation,” said Webster. “(We were) hoping they would consult actual graduating students and get their input on how to resolve the problems of numbers at the ceremony.”This is the first year the university has decided to issue tickets to seniors for the graduation ceremony, and the school informed students of the change in policy.”They did send a letter with our course requirements,” said Webster. “There was an inclusion that stated they would be distributing tickets to each graduate for guests, but they didn’t say how many tickets would be given.”With the help of her fellow petitioners, Webster wrote an editorial in The Houstonian to attract attention to the petition, which has so far received more than 200 signatures. Most of the signatures are from students of varying levels of classification, and a few professors have signed as well.”We’ve already had a lot of support within the education methods class,” said Webster.The students approaching people in the Mall Area during noon have received the majority of signatures on the petition. Other signatures have been acquired through e-mail. The group plans to continue the petition throughout the rest of the week. They currently have not set a goal for how many signatures they want, but plan to get as many as they can.Webster said her motivation to start the petition came from her wanting all her friends and family to witness the ceremony.”Just the fact that I worked hard personally to graduate summa cum laude, and I want all the people who supported and encouraged me throughout the years to be able to come if they choose,” said Webster. “And most of my classmates feel the same way.”Senior Amanda White, another student involved in the petition, said she and her fellow classmates discussed the proposition.”We were all talking, and we decided that eight just wasn’t enough tickets,” said White. White said that she and her fellow classmates are not ignorant to the space problem, but are seeking an alternate answer.”We want everyone to know that we do understand that there is an overcrowding problem, and that we are not ignoring that,” said White. “We just feel that there should be a better solution than limiting tickets.”White, like Webster, became involved with the petition because of her desire to have as many family members present at the event.”I feel real strongly about having my family there,” said White. “My family is very large, and they’re important to me and I want them there.”Dr. Keith Jenkins, chairman of the Convocation Committee, which is in charge of planning graduation, said the number of tickets is not set in stone, and that the number eight was not suggested by his group.Jenkins said Payne had suggested eight tickets during the BearF.A.C.T.S. Forum because it was a number he heard “floating around” the campus.”Apparently, he was stating a number that other people were saying,” said Jenkins.The Convocation Committee, at this point, has not decided on the number of tickets to be issued. Jenkins said the committee probably would not decide until after the Christmas break, when the university will know exactly how many students have filed for graduation.Although the filing period has elapsed, Jenkins expects there to be some late filing from students who haven’t decided on their class schedules for next semester.”As far as setting a number, we cannot do that until we know how many students are graduating,” said Jenkins.The committee met in the early fall to discuss the issue after taking into account the space problems in previous semesters.”Last spring, we had 100 percent occupancy, and we had people leave because they could not get a seat,” said Jenkins.Jenkins said that filling 98 percent of the Coliseum’s approximately 5,500 seats becomes a safety hazard in case of fire or other disasters.In contrast, Webster said that from her experiences at previous graduations, she did not feel the Coliseum was filled to capacity.”I’ve been to several graduations, and they never had to ticket the guests, and it was not at full capacity,” said Webster. “Several of my professors agree with this.”During the meeting, the idea of introducing tickets was introduced by the committee. When Jenkins’ daughter had graduated from Texas A&M, he had to purchase tickets to her graduation, so he was familiar with the policy.”It had been used at numerous universities when the number of people attending exceeds the capacity of the building,” said Jenkins. “So other schools have done this; it’s not unique.”As an alternate to ticketing students, the petitioners have suggested adding a third ceremony to the graduation to further spread the number of guests in the Coliseum at each commencement.”We had discussed having it that same Saturday, or perhaps Friday night,” said White.”That was the best alternative we came up with,” said Webster. “They had already changed the graduation date, so why not add another time or a third ceremony?”Webster said she hopes the university will listen to the concerns of its students after all the effort she and her fellow students put into getting their degrees.”We just want an opportunity to try and get something done about this,” said Webster. “I think the university will be willing to listen. We’ll see what happens come May 17.”

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