Commencement changed to May 17, draws ire from Class of 2015

Scott Murphy, News Editor

After President Steven DiSalvo informed the Board of Trustees in September that there was a conflict between the date of his son’s graduation from Fordham University and Saint Anselm College’s Class of 2015 graduation, the Board (with the consultation of the Faculty Senate) decided to move the date of graduation from Saturday May 16 to Sunday May 17 and the date of the Baccalaureate Mass and Awards Ceremony from Friday May 15 to Saturday May 16.

In an email sent to the Class of 2015, Chair of the Board of Trustees Joanne Pietrini Smith revealed that “Our Bylaws state the President of Saint Anselm College awards college degrees upon the graduates, so we looked for a solution that allowed us to satisfy this requirement.”

Pietrini Smith added that the Board’s deliberation included a “Discussion of the impact on students and families, implications of maintaining May 16 as graduation date, and the goal of insuring sufficient advance notice to accommodate travel and reservations for students, families and friends should the date be changed.”

The Board first selected the alternate dates of having Baccalaureate on Thursday May 14 and Graduation on Friday May 15 and approached the Faculty Senate for their endorsement at their September meeting .

Faculty Senate President Phil Pajakowski shared that they were informed that the date changes were necessary due to President DiSalvo’s contractual obligation to confer the degrees.

However, the Faculty Senate did not endorse these potential date changes, as Professor Pajakowski explained that they felt that having these events on two weekdays would be an inconvenience.

The Board then brought the current changed dates to the Faculty Senate’s October meeting, at which their official endorsement was granted.

President DiSalvo noted that the Faulty Senate’s decision extended their calendar past their contracted final day of May 16, something they felt was necessary in order to accommodate the circumstances.

The next objective was to schedule a commencement speaker, who will be announced on the week of February 2.

After the speaker had been chosen, an email was sent by the Office of the President to the Class of 2015 indicating that “Due to scheduling conflicts, the 122nd Saint Anselm College Commencement exercises will be held on Sunday, May 17, 2015 on the lawn in front of Alumni Hall at 2:00 p.m.”

The announcement raised controversy among members of the Class of 2015 and ultimately culminated in the organization and signing of a petition.

Some were bothered by the lack of consultation of the Class of 2015, others by the perceived short notice of the announcement and some others by the new dates’ inhabitance on their plans and/or ability to attend one or both of the ceremonies.

Andrew Freeman, a philosophy major and theology minor, is one of the members of the Class of 2015 whose family was affected by the changed dates.

“As the last of four children, the Sunday graduation makes it impossible to both have a party and have [my siblings] attend [Graduation],” Freeman explained. “Both of my brothers live and work in Los Angeles, and my sister’s daughter’s prom is that day down in Connecticut.”

President DiSalvo explained that the academic calendar (which is typically scheduled two years ahead) was set before his inauguration, and he felt that he addressed the situation as anyone else with a job conflict would.

“The Board did not take this decision lightly,” President DiSalvo added. “They looked very seriously at all of the issues surrounding this conflict. Ultimately, they felt that the new dates provided the best solution and that six months notice was reasonable.”

President DiSalvo also revealed that the concerns of the minimal number of adversely affected families that have approached the College’s administration have been addressed.

Freeman’s case was one of these, as he and President DiSalvo had a phone interview in late December.

“I mentioned how parents had received no official notice and many were upset over this,” Freeman shared, “Especially due to the fact that 1) The first they had heard of it (besides from the students) was in the Union Leader article and 2) The change had not been made well known on the website; the only change was on the academic calendar.”

According to Freeman, President DiSalvo replied that at that time, his office was drafting an official letter to be sent to parents.

Class of 2015 President Colleen Tracy, along with other leaders within the Class of 2015, met with the College’s administration following the announced date changes in order to convey the concerns of some graduating seniors.

“The change in our Commencement date is truly unfortunate; it has caused many students and their families to rearrange already scheduled plans, which was certainly not ideal,” Tracy explained.

“The leaders of the Class of 2015 did everything we could to express the frustration and concerns to the Board of Trustees, President DiSalvo and the rest of the Administration on behalf of the entire class. All parties involved were as receptive and understanding as possible.”

Tracy added that “Although our Commencement will remain on Sunday, May 17th, that does not change the fact that this day is about the Class of 2015 and all of our accomplishments. No matter what day our Commencement falls on, I look forward to celebrating with my fellow classmates and reminiscing on the amazing four years we have had here.