New Committee Asked to Advise on Spring Commencements

A line of students in graduation regalia enters UC Davis Health Stadium.
Students enter UC Davis Health Stadium for commencement June 10. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • Chancellor Gary S. May asked the committee to consider the best location and structure of ceremonies
  • He asked for preliminary recommendations by early November
  • A report makes recommendations on commencement leadership, planning, communications and more

UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May has asked 10 members of the campus community — five of them student leaders — to help shape the university’s spring 2023 undergraduate commencements and “ensure they are enjoyable and memorable for students and their families.”

In a letter inviting their service on a newly formed advisory committee, the chancellor charged members with considering the best location and structure for the ceremonies and asked for preliminary recommendations by early November.

May is providing committee members with a nine-page report that summarizes problems related to three ceremonies held outdoors in June. Suggesting the campus reconsider the venue and timing for ceremonies, the report also makes recommendations regarding commencement leadership, overall and contingency planning, rehearsals, volunteer staffing, communications and more.

May said graduation is a major milestone for students. “The university’s commencement ceremonies are an important way UC Davis honors and celebrates this milestone with students, their families and friends,” he said. “We can and must do better in the future.”

Thousands of students missed the opportunity to cross the stage and hear their name read at ceremonies held in a new and larger format and for the first time at UC Davis Health Stadium June 10-12. For health and safety reasons, officials cut the first morning’s ceremony short, when, in a heatwave, efforts to mitigate against rising temperatures weren’t enough.

Some students and their guests opted not to attend the next morning’s commencement after the university announced plans to streamline it by eliminating the calling of the students’ names — something it announced just before the ceremony would remain in the program, after all, because of other changes made. 

May apologized to the campus community. In addition to refunding the cost of commencement regalia for impacted graduates, the university scheduled three makeup commencements. Two were held at the University Credit Union Center in August, and the third is scheduled to be held there Dec. 10.

Report author Emily Galindo, who retired as vice chancellor of Student Affairs in 2020, said collecting insights for the review highlighted the many talented and dedicated individuals who work at UC Davis.

“Early planning appeared to miss the opportunity to fully engage all of those individuals who have institutional knowledge of past commencement ceremonies and the hosting of large events held in the various venues on campus,” she said. “Future commencements can be successful with specific leadership and unified planning.”

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