Every May, LIU Post students and their families convene at Post for a ceremony that marks the end of their academic career — and that has been the tradition for 53 years, according to Kenneth Mensing, LIU Post historian.
That tradition became a thing of the past when LIU President David J. Steinberg announced, on November 28, that the 2013 Commencement Ceremony would be held at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The announcement, issued by Steinberg’s office by email to students, faculty and staff, stated: “On Thursday, May, 16, 2013, LIU will celebrate the success of every one of our students at a single commencement ceremony.”
The move, according to LIU Provost Dr. Paul Forestell, was under consideration since the summer of 2011. Steinberg, university officers and the Board of Trustees, made the final decision.
The Barclays Center reached out to LIU, “and asked to set up a relationship where we would be the designated university sponsor with the Barclays Center,” Forestell said about the move. The partnership partially involved the LIU Brooklyn campus Division 1 Basketball team.
Under the long-term partnership with the Barclays Center, LIU has special access to events, discounted tickets, special mention during games and the use of facilities for events, such as the commencement ceremony.
Cost was another factor that determined the move. The university, which has recently undergone an expensive new rebranding initiative, is trying to cut the cost of the commencement ceremonies or at the very least keep it the same. Yet, “That’s a hard one to determine until we’ve been through it once,” Forestell said.
Some of the cost-saving measures are already at play, “We won’t be setting up the huge tent on the Great Lawn,” he added. The tents, which have been raised each May since 1999, cost a quarter of a million dollars, according to Steinberg.
The change of venue isn’t the only adjustment to the commencement ceremony. The ceremony, which was scheduled for May 4, 2012, was adjusted twice before the November 28 announcement; once for May 10 and then May 11, before it was decided that it would take place on May 16, 2012.
The dates were changed to accommodate the difference in semester schedules; LIU Brooklyn operates on a 15-week semester while Post operates on a 14-week semester. “In order for us to have a university-wide commencement, we’ve got to wait for the Brooklyn campus to finish,” Forestell said.
The move to have the commencement ceremony held at the Barclays did not come soon enough to change the calendar. “We have a calendar problem this year. There’s no question about it,” Steinberg said.
“As a New Jersey resident and one of the lucky few able to enter directly into the workforce, I can’t travel into Brooklyn and sit for the commencement,” said Mike DiFilippo, a senior Photography major.
“I appreciate the LIU unity and everything, but I went to LIU Post,” said Ara McPherson, a senior Sociology major. “I know the students of LIU Post and I feel as though the class of 2013 of LIU Post is my graduating class, not the class of 2013 Long Island University,” she added.
Post will host Deans’ Recognition and Awards ceremonies on May 10 and May 11, 2013. At these ceremonies, deans will recognize students by name and graduation photos will be taken. All graduating student are required to wear caps and gowns.
Previous Post commencement ceremonies have been organized by Dana Weiss, associate provost for Business Operations and Auxiliary Services. However, Weiss announced her resignation on November 15, 2012, effective January 1, 2013. Weiss has not responded to request for comment.
Now, a group of staff members will handle the commencement ceremony at the Barclays Center. Those members will work on the logistics and the planning of the university-wide commencement, according to Forestell. And to alleviate the concerns that are being raised by the Post community, since last week’s announcement, a campus “task force” of faculty, upperclassmen and staff members is also being formed, according to Forestell.
The move to Brooklyn is being met with mixed reactions from the Post community.
One of the nicest things about graduating from Post, according to Dr. Barbara Fowles, professor and chairperson of the Media Arts Department, is that students get to bring their families to the campus in the spring when it’s at its most beautiful. “The Barclays Center may be glamorous and is probably a great place for the Brooklyn ceremony, but it means nothing to Post students, and will be difficult for everyone to get to. So I think the whole business is sad,” she added.
“If it is an opportunity to join together all of the hard working students of the LIU campuses, I think it is something us students should be grateful for,” said Brittany Scelza, a senior Public Relations major. Yet, “the fact that one of our proudest days is going to be so chaotic and dragged out makes it something less exciting to look forward to,” she added.
The university plans to address those concerns by streamlining the event, according to Forestell. “We may not have as many honorary degree recipients, we may cut out some things. It may take longer, but the ceremony itself shouldn’t be much different than the timing at Post,” he added.
“I hope most students go to the commencement ceremony because it’s going to be a phenomenal event,” Forestell said. “However, I want to make sure that students graduate with an opportunity to celebrate on campus as well.”
Steinberg opposes the idea that this move is his final initiative before he retires in the fall. “It has little to do with it being my last year. It has to do with the fact that for the first time since the university has been founded, we can gather everyone together to celebrate the students who are graduating,” Steinberg added.
“[I hope that] this move will be embraced as an opportunity for the university to feel whole, connected and combined,” Steinberg said. “If that’s the case it’s worth doing. If it doesn’t work and if there’s a deep sense of anger — well, that’s my successor’s problem, but we’ll probably continue doing it anyway because we are one university.”
However, for some at Post, the sense of campus loyalty runs deep. “Post students live, dorm and attend school here. Why graduate elsewhere?” said Rachel Ipsen-Reisses, a freshman International Studies major. “Post has a sense of community. Students take pride in their campus and should graduate with Post students at LIU Post, end of story.”