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BSU president: Possibility of 2 commencements to accommodate venue change, ticket limits

Update:

Boise State University President Bob Kustra said in a letter to students Wednesday that university officials have discussed the possibility of holding two separate spring commencement ceremonies. Kustra’s letter comes in response to last week’s announcement that the ceremony was being moved from Albertsons Stadium to Taco Bell Arena and graduates would be limited to five guest tickets.

Kustra stated he understands students’ concerns about the switch.

“...We are working to assure that there are enough tickets for families at graduation through a redistribution system,” Kustra’s letter said. “We will be gathering details from graduates on their ticket needs in the coming weeks, as we know some graduates will want more than five tickets and some will want fewer. If we determine that we cannot accommodate graduates and their families in one ceremony, then we can consider holding two ceremonies, one in the morning and one in the afternoon in the arena.”

Kustra wrote that despite “a very rosy picture has been painted about last year's graduation at Albertsons Stadium,” holding commencement outdoors comes with issues, mainly the possibility of poor weather conditions. The letter also brought up the high cost of holding the ceremony at Albertsons Stadium, which Kustra said cost about $250,000.

Kustra said it is simply too risky and too expensive to hold the ceremony in the outdoor stadium again this spring.

Below is our previous reporting

Boise State officials have come under fire in recent days after announcing last Friday that graduating students will be allotted five guest tickets for commencement and that the ceremony will move back to Taco Bell Arena after being held in Albertsons Stadium last year.

Boise State holds two commencements per school year: winter and spring. The ceremonies have been held at Taco Bell Arena every year “in recent memory” except for last spring, when the graduation was held at Albertsons Stadium to mark the school’s 100th commencement, BSU spokesman Greg Hahn told the Idaho Statesman.

Until last week, though, the Boise State provost’s office website had listed Albertsons Stadium, which holds more than 37,000 people, as the commencement venue for May 5, Hahn said.

In previous years, admission to commencement had largely been on a first-come, first-served basis, leading to people being turned away, Hahn said. A ticketing system allows for “families to plan better - and assures a fair distribution of access for every graduate,” he said.

A ticket transfer system will be available to students, meaning that if a student does not use his or her allotment, the tickets will be redistributed, but Hahn said the process has not been finalized.

The move to Taco Bell Arena has caused several students to contact the Statesman to express disappointment, and some students are disappointed with the five-guest limit, as it has forced them to change or cancel plans. A petition to move the graduation ceremony back to Albertsons Stadium has amassed more than 500 signatures already.

“Since graduation last spring was on the blue, Boise State gave the impression that they were starting a new tradition to have spring graduations on the field,” student Samantha Spain told the Statesman. “The issue is not that Boise State is limiting us to five guests; the issue is that they are telling us this two months before graduation occurs.”

But the ticket limit is affecting some.

“My immediate family alone is six people. This is not counting my grandparents or any other family/close friends that have been planning on attending for nearly a year,” student Tiera Meadows said. “I have told some family members, and we all share the same frustrations. ... It will be next to impossible to be forced to choose only five people.”

A release from Boise State pointed to possible “inclement weather” as a reason for moving the ceremony back inside, as the commencement date “landed among a few days of rain and lightning” last year, which could have ultimately canceled or postponed it. Full capacity at Taco Bell Arena, which Hahn said will be just under 10,000, is expected. He said there are expected to be around 1,750 graduates this spring.

Hahn also said a commencement at Albertsons Stadium is “far more” expensive than it is at Taco Bell Arena.

He also said that Boise State has received complaints about the move.

Student Jessica Stiffler told the Idaho Statesman she had 11 family members planning on attending her graduation. Having to pick and choose is an excruciating process, she said.

“BSU strives to be an academic institution of growth and integrity, but this cannot happen without when students are not put first,” Stiffler said. “Please, make arrangements so all family and friends of graduates can watch this major milestone. Please, show everyone what a great place BSU can be when we all rally together.”

Student Emily Calhoon wrote to the Statesman that everyone deserved earlier notice.

“You expect me to tell my 84-year-old grandparents that they spent hundreds of dollars on plane tickets and hotel reservations for nothing because the administrators decided to change the location last minute?” Calhoon wrote. “If this is how Boise State University treats their students and alumni, then I am ashamed to say that this is where I chose to be a part of.”

In previous years, overflow crowds from commencement were sent to the Student Union Building, where families could watch the ceremony via live-stream. Family unable to get into commencement this year also will be able to watch at the union, which will feature “family-friendly activities and viewing rooms so friends, families and supporters can all enjoy the most celebratory day on Boise State’s campus each year,” the school said.

That’s not good enough, Spain wrote in her initial email: “My family is not paying to travel to a different state to watch me on TV.”

Michael Katz: 208-377-6444, @MichaelLKatz

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