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Exercise and Sports Science graduation ceremony changes after student petition

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DTH Illustration. How are the EXSS graduating class supposed to feel about limited guests when they never had their own in-person high school graduation.

On Feb. 8, the Exercise and Sports Science department informed students that the department's spring graduation would be held in Carmichael Arena, rather than the previously announced location of Memorial Hall.

The change follows the circulation of a petition created by EXSS graduating seniors on Jan. 29. The petition called for a number of things, but mainly a change in location.

Senior EXSS major Alexandria Hill was informed last month that her department graduation would be located in Memorial Hall and that graduates would be limited to only three tickets. 

As one of UNC’s most popular majors, the small location, limited tickets and delay in the announcement upset some EXSS seniors like Hill. The petition was signed by 108 people as of Feb. 18.

Previous department graduations have been held in the Dean E. Smith Center, a significantly larger venue than Memorial Hall. The EXSS ceremony also includes summer and winter graduates, Troy Blackburn, chair of the EXSS department, said in an email statement. 

Hill said that especially after experiencing a carpool high school graduation during the thick of the pandemic, she was excited to finally have an ideal graduation.

“It’s kind of disheartening,” Hill said. “Hearing that most families aren’t all going to be able to celebrate, and we’ve been waiting since high school to actually be able to celebrate our accomplishments since it’s starting to become a little bit normal.”

Allowing three tickets per graduate could create a rift in many families, the petition stated, and place additional stressors on students from large, non-traditional or even divorced families, who would then be forced to choose who could attend.

The petition also included concerns over the timing of the announcement, saying families who already took time off work, booked hotel rooms and scheduled flights could have lost hundreds of dollars if they did not receive a ticket to the graduation.

Hill said she learned that the department moved the ceremony to Carmichael Arena on Mother's Day and that it would no longer be ticketed on Feb. 8. Blackburn said the department decided to change location due to concerns raised by students.

Students across the University expressed concerns about multiple changes made to department graduations, not just the EXSS department. A day after the EXSS petition circulated, graduating global studies seniors created a petition for graduation changes. Their requests have yet to be granted as of Feb. 13.

UNC Media Relations said in an email statement that multiple departments are having combined ceremonies because some individual departments outgrew what can occur successfully on campus in a single weekend. Media Relations said University event staff offers assistance to departments to create scripts and work on timing to ensure that graduates are recognized appropriately.

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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