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Students scramble to fix plans for visiting family and friends

Christine Lee

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Inforgraphic by Liz Coffee


This year, only five guests per one graduating student will be allowed to enter Nettleton Stadium for the Chico State commencement in May.
Every year, about 10,000 guests fill the stadium each day on Sat. and Sun., said Chico State spokesperson Joe Wills. This year, the university will be ticketing guests in order to cut attendance down to about 8,000 people.
“There are 8,000 seats in the stadium – when they fill up, people will stand or sit outside where the graduates are seated,” Wills said. “According to experts who know about emergency response and safety, not having people in those locations will allow us to handle emergencies effectively.”
Accessibility for the disabled and those who need special seating were other issues.
Over the years that Chico State has held the ceremonies, there have been guests who needed medical aid at the event.
One year, a guest suffered a heat stroke, Wills said.
Wills said he is not aware of past medical emergencies being the cause for this new rule.
The recommendation for the change came from the Public Safety Committee late in the spring 2013 semester – too late to change last year’s ceremony, said President Paul Zingg via email. It was then decided the new limitation would take effect this year.
Those who don’t have tickets can watch the commencement at Laxson Auditorium, Harlen Adams Theatrthe or at an outdoor venue, according to a campus-wide email.
“I understand that there’s safety concerns but having people watch from a T.V. outside is not the same,” said Carla Moran, senior political science major.
“When your family actually sees you walk, you can hear them yelling for you,” she said. “The vibe and the noise that people make when you’re crossing that stage is more special than watching it from a T.V. screen.”
Moran is a first generation college student. Her family is traveling from Las Vegas, Pasadena and the Bay Area.
Because of the new rule, she said she doesn’t know if most of her family will still be attending although her parents already booked a hotel one year in advance.
Local hotels are completely booked within 30 minutes once reservations are open in July, about two months after the previous graduation, said Brook Smith, hotel sales manager at the Courtyard Marriot and Residence Inn in Chico.
Smith graduated from Chico State in 2009.
“During that time in July, hotels cost about $100 over the regular rate,” she said.
There are 90 rooms at the Courtyard Mariott and 78 rooms at the Residence Inn. All the rooms are currently booked for Chico State’s graduation weekend.
The new university regulation may or may not affect the hotel business because guests are not allowed to book more than three rooms per person, she said.
Those who booked hotels last year have until two weeks prior to graduation weekend to cancel their reservations.
“All these people coming in town are a tax revenue,” said Smith. “Limiting the amount of people may be hindering how much money is brought in to Chico.”
Typically, about 1,500 graduating students participate on each day – some years, it can be up to 1,800 students, Wills said.
The college of agriculture will have their own commencement in Laxson Auditorium to lower the amount of students and visitors in the stadium, according to the email.
Students who don’t need the extra tickets can put them into a pool where other students in need will be allowed to take from, Wills said.
How these extra tickets will be distributed is still being planned, Wills said.
Johanna Herbert, a senior political science major, said she was expecting eight to nine family members to drive up from Anaheim.
Her grandmother was planning to travel from Mexico, she said.

“For them to tell us at the last minute when you already made plans with your family isn’t right,” Herbert said. “it doesn’t make sense to limit it to five people because it depends on your family size.”
Tickets won’t cost money, according a commencement information website.
Regardless, ticket scalping for graduation “has long been a tradition among students,” according to an article from the Wall Street Journal.
In 2007, some Princeton University graduates sold their commencement tickets for as much as $250, according to the article.
“That would be a poor decision if it was based on trying to make money instead of trying to help others’ families attend the commencement,” Wills said.
Children, ages two and under, will not be ticketed if they sit on the parent’s lap.
Guests who use wheelchair, along with those who accompany them will be ticketed and there will be a designated area for accessible seating.

Christine Lee can be reached at [email protected] or @leechris017 on Twitter.

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Students scramble to fix plans for visiting family and friends