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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

UW-Madison 2022 graduates express concern over Camp Randall construction’s impact on commencement

The University of Wisconsin-Madison commencement ceremony is a bittersweet moment full of traditions such as “Jump Around,” a ceremonial tassel turning and “Varsity.” However, due to construction at Camp Randall Stadium, graduates from the College of Letters and Science (L&S) will not be on the field for spring graduation.

“The College of Letters & Science has the largest graduate population, with around 2,900 expected to attend the Camp Randall ceremony,” university spokesperson John Lucas said in a statement to The Daily Cardinal. “If L&S graduates were to be seated on the field, they would take up a large majority of the space, leaving no room on the field for six other colleges.”

The university chose to keep the ceremony at Camp Randall because there is no other location on campus large enough to accommodate a crowd of approximately 40,000 people, according to Lucas. 

"Just as importantly, commencement at Camp Randall has become a cherished tradition – we did not want to give it up,” Lucas added. “We believe most graduates would agree with us on that, so in return for being able to be together at Camp Randall, we are asking all graduates for flexibility and compromise.” 

The South End Zone of Camp Randall is currently under construction. Lucas said there will only be about 30 yards of usable space for graduate seating on the field because the stage will be at the 50-yard line. Graduates will either be placed on the field or in the stands depending on where their school is located on the official seating chart. 

Some students expressed their concern about the seating placement decision to The Daily Cardinal. 

“I would almost feel left out of the whole celebration,” said Kathryn Miller, a senior graduating with a degree in finance and risk management and insurance. “It’s unfortunate the construction had to begin before graduation, especially when considering this is the first ‘normal’ graduation since COVID-19.” 

“We’ve already had a lot taken from us with COVID-19, so having an in-person commencement ceremony was something we all were looking forward to,” added Isabella Stier, a senior graduating with a degree in journalism with an emphasis on strategic communication. “When we found out Camp Randall is under construction, a lot of us were definitely let down. It definitely will be a unique experience, and I am looking forward to it nonetheless.”

A poll sent out to Badger fans revealed that fans wanted a better experience inside Camp Randall, prompting the demolition and remodel that began at the end of the 2021 football season. The South End Zone will become an outdoor seating area with some indoor club features, more food and beverage options and a climate controlled area to provide fans with an improved gameday experience.

“I was pretty disappointed when I put two and two together and realized the Camp Randall construction was going to affect commencement,” emphasized Stier. 

Miller remains disappointed with the university’s announcement that the Class of 2022 will have a “unique” spring commencement experience new to Camp Randall’s history. 

“This statement is basically telling us that seats will be taken away and the stadium will not appear in the best condition. It’s unique for sure but not in a good way,” said Miller. “It’s hard to look at this as a ‘memorable and historic occasion.’”

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“To me, all this shows is that the university cares about money more than its student body and graduating seniors who all pay a hefty yearly tuition,” Miller continued. 

Shea Draddy, a legal studies and political science major, would also rather be placed on the field for her graduation experience.

“I really hate that we have to be in the stands,” Draddy said. “Graduation should be about the students in their home turf, not their home turf under construction.”

Regardless of seating arrangements, Stier weighed the options and is happy that graduation even gets to happen.

“There are so many mixed feelings going into graduation, but I feel very grateful to have such a strong love for this school, making it so hard to say goodbye,” she said. 

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 3:00 p.m. to include statements from the university spokesperson John Lucas. 

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