Seniors, families scramble for graduation schedule

Lee Mengistu

Students are criticizing the university for announcing a new commencement schedule three months before graduation weekend. 

Previously, commencement was listed as Sunday, May 7 and separated into three ceremonies in 2016. Commencement will now be separated by college and school into four ceremonies between two days. 

The Commencement Committee of administrators, staff, students and faculty began the decision-making process after the December 2016 commencement. They attributed the date change to an increase in graduation attendance, citing an increase of 700 graduates between May ceremonies in 2011 and 2016. The decision was approved by President Eli Capilouto last week.

“We certainly apologize for any inconvenience that a decision with respect to commencement scheduling causes for families or students. No schedule is perfect, to be sure,” UK Director of Public Relations Jay Blanton said Monday. “This decision, for example, was made in response to a number of participants in previous years telling us that commencement ceremonies lasted far too long – as long as 3 hours at a given ceremony – and posed travel and scheduling hardships.” 

Prior to the announcement made Feb. 9, the commencement date was listed as a single day, May 7, on the semester calendar listed by the registrar. The official commencement page was not updated until Feb. 9. The official university registrar calendar page was the only source of information for students, families and friends who made arrangements and reservations for graduation weekend months in advance and has yet to be updated by the Office of Enrollment Management.

“We should have had those calendars in sync and we apologize that they were not. That said, while not perfect, this decision was made nearly three months before commencement and the commencement site was updated as soon as the decision was made,”  Blanton said.

The addition of Friday ceremonies may prove to be inconvenient for families and friends who have scheduling conflicts with work, school or prior arrangements, like integrated strategic communications senior Imani Goshay, whose College of Communication and Information ceremony was moved from Sunday to Friday morning, leaving two family members in a predicament. 

“They were flying in on that Saturday and already had their hotel booked and reservations can’t be changed. The same with my best friend who’s flying in from Germany,” Goshay said

The updated graduation weekend schedule also conflicts with exams and the popular Longlines Kentucky Oaks horse race on May 5 in Louisville. Seniors who wish to reschedule Friday final exams that conflict with their commencement ceremony must notify their instructor of the request at least two weeks before the exam. 

“By spreading out the ceremonies – and creating an extra ceremony – we are streamlining the service, which we hope ultimately will result in more participation. We will, of course, evaluate each year as we always do to assess what worked and what didn’t,” Blanton said.

Those unable to attend a ceremony can watch a livestream provided on and archived on Youtube for a week following.