Last night, Spec published an official statement sent to them by the University to address “misinformation which we want to dispel” about the GS Class Day controversy. The statement is more notable for what it doesn’t say than what it says—neither the fund set up to compensate GS seniors for changed travel plans nor the petition (now signed by over 600 students, and liked nearly 2,000 times on Facebook) urging the University to hold an off-campus ceremony on the original day or the University’s fund to help are mentioned.
We are proud that President Obama will return to our campus for Barnard’s graduation, but the resulting consequences for other class day ceremonies scheduled for that day have spawned some misinformation which we want to dispel. From the moment we learned of President Obama’s decision speak at Barnard, our goal has been to accommodate this historic visit without undue inconvenience to thousands of our graduates and their families attending other Commencement week events. The University aggressively and thoroughly explored numerous scheduling and logistical options for achieving this objective with Barnard, General Studies and Engineering—the three schools with ceremonies that had all been scheduled on the same South Lawn location, one after another, on the same day. As Dean Awn has clearly stated, the option of moving the General Studies Class Day ceremony to a different campus site Monday morning while the main core of campus was rendered largely inaccessible would likely have been deeply problematic for graduates and their families.
Given these serious constraints, a collaborative decision was made that the only acceptable alternative that would best fulfill the tradition of Columbia’s graduation for General Studies was to reschedule the ceremony on the previous day on Low Plaza. We find the resulting inconvenience to graduating General Studies students and their families deeply regrettable, and we are committed to helping ensure that they do not have to bear the financial cost of this change in order to accommodate the unique aspects of presidential logistics for Barnard’s ceremony. The GS Class Day ceremony now scheduled for May 13 should only be about the exceptional achievement of the graduates, and we are doing everything in our power to ensure that that will be the case.