Mercer University will relocate undergraduate commencement ceremonies from Hawkins Arena to Five Star Stadium this year due to increased class size.
Instead of the usual starting time of Saturday at 3:30 p.m., commencement will now take place at 8:15 a.m. Monday, May 13.
“For several years now we have been holding a morning commencement on the Atlanta campus that draws 9,000 participants, so we have experience staging large outdoor ceremonies,” Larry Brumley, senior vice president for marketing communications & Mercer chief of staff, said in an email.
Changing the time of the ceremony to the early morning was in order to avoid thunderstorms and combat the heat, Brumley said.
The change of location will also allow students to invite eight to 10 guests to attend commencement.
Parking will remain in the same location, and guests will not have assigned seating.
“Mercer is following the practice of many other prestigious institutions that hold outdoor ceremonies, including Emory University and the University of Georgia,” Brumley said.
The decision was made “based on input from students and after considering a variety of scenarios,” according to an email from Provost David Scott Davis.
For Arlette Hernandez, a senior global health studies major, the change means her eight to 10 seats will be empty as she receives her degree.
“I’m sure a lot of other students have parents who work regular full-time jobs who do not have the income or ability to take a day off work,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez’s parents both work full-time jobs, Monday through Friday. Mercer’s commencement has typically been held on Saturdays.
“Instead of being able to celebrate with my parents, I will be alone when your graduation should be a time celebrating with your family, especially since they helped you so much along the way,” Hernandez said.
Clark Myers, a senior biology major, welcomes the change and ability to invite more guests.
“One of the most stressful parts of graduation that students face is trying to find additional tickets beyond the few they are given, or try to figure out who is going to get left out,” Myers said.
The decision was “not arrived at lightly,” Brumley said. “There is no perfect date or time that will accommodate everyone’s preferences.”