Tent to be built for spring graduation

 
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To many seniors’ dismay, NAU’s spring commencement will be relocated to a temporary structure while the Walkup Skydome is undergoing renovations.

The temporary structure will be built in the South Commuter parking lot, which was chosen because it is the largest area on campus not affected by construction. Students are allowed to invite only six guests to their commencement due to the smaller venue, which can hold 4,700 people.

The 164-by-295-foot temporary structure will be made of a light steel frame, with a fabric covering, heaters, glass doors and the ability to withstand an 80 mile-per-hour windstorm.

Debra Larson, associated vice provost, said because the venue is smaller, everyone will be on one level, making the ceremony more intimate and the procession more traditional.

“We actually think that the interior of the tent is going to provide a type of event quality that we could never have in the [Skydome], meaning that it’s actually going to be quite cozy and intimate,” Larson said.

The team planning spring commencement received a budget of $300,000 from the university. Approximately one-third of the budget will go to the actual structure, and the rest will go toward granting electrical power, running water for restrooms and a separate tent for medical staff, police officers and shuttle services.

Larson said the actual structure will only cost about $100,000, but the other necessities that make the ceremonies nicer will increase that cost.

“The structure in [and] of itself is probably less than $100,000, but right at about $100,000,” Larson said. “We won’t know that until the actual proposals come in, which should be soon. But it is all of the other stuff we have to do in addition — we have to do all the seating, the stages. We are actually going to have a VIP tent — [a] student-staging tent area.”

Those involved have been looking at substitute locations for commencement since July. They looked at the possibility of holding the ceremonies in smaller buildings such as Prochnow Auditorium, but these options would have allowed students to invite only four guests (instead of the current six) and would have necessitated multiple ceremonies.

“This truly is the best option of all the alternatives we looked at,” Larson said. “Many of the alternatives we looked at, we could only accommodate four tickets per student. Anything that anyone could think of as an alternative here, we looked at it. I think we really covered our bases; there were a lot of really bad alternatives.”

Larson said she and others working on the commencement ceremony do not want students to judge the situation too quickly, especially when criticizing the six-guest limit.

“The immediate reaction of people assuming that commencement is going to be lousy because it’s not in the Dome — I think that’s really an unfair reaction,” Larson said. “We’re really working hard to ensure that the students are going to have a really high-quality event, and NAU is obviously investing a lot of dollars for that. I greatly appreciate the difficultly that six tickets brings to students. On the other hand, I am very happy that we were able to find an alternative that allowed us to have more tickets than two or four.”

Many graduating students are upset about the limitations caused by the Skydome renovations, despite the administration’s claims that the commencement alternative will be adequate.

Kayla Smith, a senior English major, said she had been looking forward to having her large family come to town to celebrate her graduation, but her plans will have to change.

“I’m upset because my family is bigger than six people,” Smith said. “I want them all to come, but I don’t know who to include and exclude. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. It totally changes the plans. I wanted to have a big party, but now I don’t know if it’s worth it to walk.”

Herbert Thames, a senior music major, said he is more accepting of the change in venues but does not like the invitation limitation.

“I don’t really mind the ceremony being moved,” Thames said. “The biggest problem I have with it is the fact that we will only be allotted six tickets because of it.”

Jonathan Watson, a senior religious studies major, said he agrees the limitation of tickets puts a damper on the ceremony, but he also understands sacrifices must be made.

“Personally, graduating in the temporary structure is not a huge deal to me,” Watson said. “The only upsetting part about this structure is that we are only allowed to invite six guests. My extended family is fairly large, and I would have loved to have everyone possible come to see me graduate. But on the bright side, I think the temporary structure will allow us as a graduating class to have an easier time walking, since there will be less to organize. And I’ve also heard that we will be much closer to the crowd, letting our families actually see us as we walk, instead of from a Jumbotron. The remodeling of the Dome will become a necessity at some point, and personally, I don’t mind making the small sacrifice of walking elsewhere to allow future students the honor of graduating in it in the next few years.”

Spring commencement applications for undergraduate students were due Nov. 15. Graduation will take place May 13 and 14.

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