More than 1,300 students have signed a petition asking the university to change the prom format for Tandon students, who will not be able to perform on stage due to time constraints.
Manas Johri, a graduate student at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, imagined that when graduation came around, he would walk up to the stage to shake hands, grab his diploma and take photos with his family after the ceremony.
But the Tandon graduates won’t be able to take the Barclays Center stage this year due to time constraints — last year’s ceremony, which honored 2,067 graduates, lasted more than six hours. To pass the time, the school decided to read each graduate’s name and show their photo and name on a screen as they stand by their chair in the crowd. In response to the news, over 1,300 students signed an online petition urge NYU to give this year’s more than 3,000 graduates a chance to take the stage during the ceremony.
The petition urges the administration to seek an alternative to the photo display plan that honors the achievements of the graduates. Graduation ceremonies have been described as “an important milestone in a student’s life [that] should be celebrated with dignity and respect.” Johri, whose parents live in India, said if this year’s graduation was the equivalent of watching YouTube videos, they might not attend the ceremony either.
“My first graduation was on YouTube, and it’s basically the same thing,” Johri said. “It’s a really emotional moment, and even if it seems like the students are going for 5-10 seconds, those are the moments our parents are waiting for.”
Leah Schmerl, public affairs officer for Tandon, said the number of undergraduates, graduate students and Ph.D. students would make it impossible to hold a graduation ceremony.
“We received numerous complaints from students and their families both during and after the ceremony,” Schmerl said of last year’s event. “The vast majority of attendees left the ceremony before it ended, leaving the last graduates in an almost empty arena. This year we have over 3,400 graduates, which would mean an even longer ceremony. It would not have been possible to complete the ceremony by our designated end time if the students had taken the stage.’
University spokesman John Beckman added that NYU schools have no guidelines for how they decide to host graduation ceremonies.
Some parents of international students are hesitant to travel abroad to watch their students graduate if they don’t go on stage. Tandon students present more than 100 countries, and during the 2019-2020 school yearmore than 70% of the school’s graduate students were foreign.
Tandon senior Nathaniel Lim is again considering flying his grandmother over from Thailand to watch the ceremony. Lim noted that the pandemic has already affected his first year at Tandon.
“A few months into the first year, we got COVID and sent everyone home within one week,” Lim said. “Everything seems to be normal, but we can’t even go to graduation.”
Graduate student Tandon Pooja Ramesh has family visiting from India, as well as friends from Germany and Canada who are coming to watch her graduate. They have already spent money on plane tickets and hotels, and they cannot return the money, so they plan to attend the ceremony.
“They’re just going to come here to see me at the ceremony, not to see me on stage,” Ramesh said. “Just if I’m on the screen and my parents can’t see me there – it doesn’t seem to matter if I’m at the ceremony or not.”
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