Commencement Requirement Questioned

Commencement Requirement Questioned

Strict Requirements; Lack of Winter Commencement Lead to Graduation Troubles

Commencement Requirement QuestionedSome University students are questioning a policy that keeps students from walking at spring commencement if they are registered to finish their degree during the summer. 

According to a USA Today article published in 2015, the majority of colleges and universities allow for seniors who have six or less credits remaining to complete their degree to walk at their spring graduations if they were registered to finish their degree in the summer.

Mary Anne Nagy, Vice President for Student Life and Leadership Engagement, said that the University once had a policy allowing for those finishing their degree in the summer to walk at the spring graduation; however, it was revoked once an analysis found that many of those who walked were not finishing their degrees. 

According to Nagy, the number of students who did not finish their degree was “in the double digits” and she approximated it at around 15 percent. 

“A significant number of students who participated in commencement didn’t ever actually complete their degree,” Nagy explained. “They would say, ‘Well, I went to commencement.’ Commencement is the ceremonial celebration of a degree, but the completion of your degree is the completion of your degree. They’re two separate and distinct things.” 

“To us, that seemed very high, and it suggested to us from an academic rigor and integrity perspective that we needed to close the gap, so the rule became that you had to be finished to participate in commencement,” Nagy continued.

“I have been dreaming about graduating college since I was a little kid, and now that it is time, I feel like that feeling is taken away from me,” said Tommy Chung, a senior business administration student who believed he would be able to walk at graduation despite having six credits left to complete.

“Especially since I am a first-generation college student, graduation is a huge accomplishment.” 

Chung also pointed out that the recent removal of the winter commencement meant that he would have to wait nearly a year to walk. 

“I was informed that I would have to come back in May 2019 to walk,” Chung continued. “Where is the celebration in that if I technically graduate in August since I only have six credits? I will not be graduating with the friends that I have made during these four years, and in a year, what if I cannot make it to commencement? I feel like the school is not understanding of students in situations similar to this.” 

According to Nagy, the winter commencement was stopped during former University President Paul Brown’s tenure due to the realization that a combined ceremony was a dissatisfaction to undergraduate and graduate students who were receiving their degrees at the same event. 

“Graduate students and undergraduate students have very distinct needs, and the commencement ceremony should be tailored to that distinction,” said Nagy. “Undergrads have an interest in more of the celebratory aspect. With graduate students, it’s different; it’s the culmination of several years of going to school. The needs of the two groups were different, and our ceremony combined was very undergraduate-centric.” 

According to Nagy, the University began to see graduate students leaving as soon as they received their degrees, leading to “a third or fourth of the audience” leaving early, which she called “rude” and “disruptive.” 

Nagy also said that having two separate ceremonies in the winter meant that there were not enough students to make the commencements reasonable, since they did not have the “necessary critical mass.”

According to Nagy, the decision to eliminate the winter commencement was made in plenty of time for students to plan to graduate when they wanted, saying that students had about 18 months’ notice to “reconfigure their academic program and scheduling approach so that [they] can get to the commencement that makes the most sense.” 

“I understand that the school may say that it was also my responsibility to keep track of the amount of credits I have but since the school has taken away winter commencement, the school should find a way for students to celebrate when they only have a certain amount of credits left before they can walk,” Chung said.

Another difficulty that affects students graduating on time is that the University also requires 128 credits to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, but most bachelor’s degrees are only approximately 120 credits, including at schools such as John Hopkins University and Oregon State University.

“I don’t know the history of why Monmouth’s BA and BS degrees are 128 credits,” said Laura Moriarty, Ph.D., Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “But, not all BA/BS degrees are 120 credits. The number of credits to complete a degree is largely dependent on the discipline. The breakdown of credits into headings such as major requirements, general education, etc. is set by faculty proposing the curriculum. In some programs, where the program is accredited, the distributions credits might be set by the accreditation association.” 

“It’s been 128 [credits] for as long as I can remember,” said Nagy. “The faculty set the requirements through the undergraduate and graduate studies committees. It’s also about being a well-rounded, educated person. It’s not just about taking classes in your major. It’s very important to have a good, strong base and that’s really in the general education requirement.”

“Monmouth University works to provide students with a liberal education, meaning that they are offered courses that emphasize broad knowledge as well as in-depth analysis in fields of interest,” said Kathryn Kloby, Vice Provost for Transformative Learning. “It is widely accepted that this form of study fosters a sense of social responsibility, builds strong intellectual skills and problem-solving capabilities, and fosters the application of knowledge to the real world.”  

Moriarty also said that “with proper advising” students can graduate in four years by using options such as taking 16 credits each semester, two semesters of 18 credits and 15 credits for the other semesters, or taking courses during the summer. She also highlighted the online curriculum charts found on Webadvisor which outline what classes students have to take every semester to graduate in four years.

“Personally, I don’t think it’s fair that we have to take extra credits over the average,” said a student who wished to remain anonymous. “I’m graduating on time, but it was really difficult to have 18-credit semesters. Summer classes might seem like a great option to avoid that, but they’re way too expensive for me and probably for most other students. I think that a lot of the general education requirements could be condensed, and that would resolve a lot of problems.”

“The number of credit hours for a course and thereby a degree program is determined based on the intended learning outcomes and allows institutions to confirm that courses reflect the appropriate academic rigor and content,” Moriarty added. 

PHOTO TAKEN by Alexandria Afanador