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Fisk University Seniors Call For Change Following Unexpected Commencement Modifications

Several students from Fisk University‘s Class of 2024 (who wish to remain anonymous) are calling for change after the university made unexpected alterations to their upcoming commencement ceremony. Last week, on April 17th, Fisk reportedly notified the senior class that they had made changes to the ceremony, which is scheduled to be held on Monday, May 6th.

“On Wednesday, April 17th, 2024 Fisk University administration made the executive decision to change the 2024 location from the Grove (better known as the Fisk University Yard) on Monday, May 6th at 9:00 am to a local church at 8:30 am,” one email to HBCU BUZZ read.

According to one student who messaged via Instagram, the university also changed the number of tickets allotted per senior. “Initially graduating seniors were allotted four ticketed guests with overflow allowed to attend by bringing their own chairs (essentially an unlimited amount of guests were allowed). Now, students are being told only ticketed guests (total of eight) can attend.”

The Class of 2024, who are also members of the COVID-19 high school class, were unable to have a physical graduation due to the pandemic in 2020. Fisk seniors tell us that “graduating on the Grove has not only been a dream, but an expectation since August of 2023.”

“We as the class of 2024 won’t get to immediately go to the oval as other classes have (a tradition of Fisk University) or get to graduate on our own campus,” another user wrote.

In a screenshot sent from another student, Fisk University reportedly explained that the changes were made due to the move to a larger facility, (The House of God Church in Nashville), which can accommodate up to 2300 people. As a result, each graduate would now receive eight tickets instead of the initial four.

“I acknowledge that some graduating seniors may feel disappointed by the change in venue for the ceremony, especially regarding concerns about the attendance of their loved ones,” the statement reads.

“Allow me to explain the rationale behind the decision to move the commencement to an indoor facility. Firstly, as we celebrate not only the silver class of 1999 and the gold class of 1974, providing a controlled climate becomes imperative for the comfort of all attendees, including your parents and grandparents. Secondly, ensuring that every guest has a seat eliminates the need for anyone to stand for extended periods during the ceremony. Lastly, by moving indoors, we mitigate the risk of having to relocate the commencement last minute due to inclement weather, as has happened in the past.”

Screenshot message sent via Instagram on April 18th, 2024.
Screenshot message sent via Instagram on April 18th, 2024.

Students and parents have expressed their concerns about the unexpected changes and how they will impact the seniors’ experience of graduating on campus, as well as their family members who may not be able to attend the ceremony.

“Flat out ignoring student concerns for a public image is said,” one user commented. “bring our HISTORIC celebration back to our HISTORICIALLY BLACK INSTITUTION!” another user wrote.

Despite Fisk reportedly making more changes since last week to help accommodate the venue and ticket alterations, such as “offering two additional tickets, organizing a reception for graduates on the grove, and allowing the church doors to remain open until it’s at max capacity,” seniors still feel as though their concerns were ignored and that they are being robbed of the traditional Fisk graduation experience.

“Having a celebration on the yard plus an additional move-out day is great, but we were still robbed of participating in traditions that other classes before us go to!”

Fisk seniors hope that this call for change will bring awareness to the negative impact that impromptu changes such as these have on graduates in the future.

“Our intention is not to bash Fisk or discourage any students from attending this amazing university, we just want to feel heard and hope this experience keeps this from happening to any other grads in the future,” a Fisk senior tells us.

We reached out to Fisk University for comment and are currently waiting to hear back.

Fisk University’s Graduation ceremony will take place on Monday, May 6th. Al Roker and Deborah Roberts will be the commencement speakers.

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