STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) - Graduation is supposed to be one of the happiest days of college, but hundreds of Georgia Southern University seniors in Statesboro learned of major changes to the ceremony that leave them dreading it.
Since the consolidation, students who’ve attended Statesboro campus or Armstrong campus have graduated there. Starting in May, your degree will dictate where you get the diploma. That has hundreds of seniors thrown for a loop and not happy with where they’re supposed to celebrate.
Seniors went from anticipating commencement to dreading it, all in one e-mail. Many learned on Wednesday they won’t get their diploma at Paulson Stadium like they’ve expected for years. The university will split up ceremonies based on the students' major.
“My cousin and I both graduate the same day. As of right now, our ceremonies are the same day, same time, but hers is in Statesboro and mine is in Savannah,” said GSU Senior, Caroline Murphy.
It’s part of the consolidation with Armstrong State University. Three of Georgia Southern’s 13 colleges will hold their diploma ceremony in Savannah. One of them is the College of Education.
“We started as a teacher’s college. Now, education students and other majors are being forced to go to Savannah,” said GSU Senior, Gillian Woody.
University leaders say Southern is now too large to read every graduate’s name and deliver the diploma. They’ll break them up by major for smaller ceremonies in order to continue that personal touch.
“The decision on where those will be located was based on where that college is headquartered. Now, we’re a multi-campus institution, and that just made the most sense for right now,” said John Lester, GSU Communications.
He says they’ll still hold a large gathering at Paulson with a commencement speaker and everything but the names and diplomas. Last night, Gillian started an online petition to change it back.
"To get more than 7,000 signatures in less than 24 hours, I was shocked, but I think it’s a testament to how much this community wants this.
Students in Statesboro figure those in Savannah forced to attend a ceremony there feel the same way - they want their special moment to be on the campus they’ve called home.
“I would want to graduate here instead of Savannah because I didn’t go to school there. I cam to school here, and that’s what matters to me,” said Christina Moore, GSU Senior.
Many faculty members agree.
“Usually, when we hear a solution, we’ve also heard a problem,” said Dr. Katie Brkich, GSU Professor. “So, it’s hard to know if this is a good solution because we don’t exactly know what the problem there was for it to solve.”
The students we spoke to say they’ll likely opt out of the diploma ceremony, but plan to still gather at Paulson like they’ve imagined their whole college career.