CME commencement: Technical difficulties, empty liquor bottles, and smiles 


Shae Pastrana yelling to family before she walks the graduation stage. Melvin Bui right. Photo taken May 18 by Molly Myers.

As Pomp and Circumstance began playing, students stomped through the grass to University Stadium, leaving behind a trail of small single-shot liquor bottles. Most of them were Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey. 

In sunny, 92 degree weather bachelor’s candidates smiled talking to their friends.

“We made it,” was the most common statement. 

Parents, family members and friends screamed their names in excitement as they entered the stadium.

Bachelor’s candidates anxiously told one another, “I’m nervous. I’m sort of blacking out from excitement.” 

Commencement ran smoothly, until the PA system announcing names failed.

Students were called two at a time to the stage to receive their diploma. Each student received a digital pass they scanned once on stage prompting an AI, which is an artifical intelligence automated voice, to read their name. Students appeared on a live split screen that displayed their names, once they received their diploma. 

Two bachelor’s candidates were on stage when the voice caller broke down, and didn’t get to hear their name read by the Al automated voice.

Minutes later, Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson tried to calm people who were questioning what was going on and asked the bachelor’s candidates that didn’t get their names called to go back on stage. 

Thinking it would only take a few minutes to resolve the problem, the panel resumed commencement, only to see that the system was still broken. 

Hutchinson said the issue was a first for her during her time as president. 

They started calling people by their names with real-live humans through a microphone. Dr. Zach Justus and associate professor Stephen Caldes read the remaining names.

“It was exciting! I loved it,” Caldes said.   

Professor Stephen Caldes calling out names after the PA system failed. Photo taken May 18 by Molly Myers.

Some people walked when another student’s name was called. Students ended up on the live split screen with other peoples names on the screen.

Regardless, students laughed as the sun set streaking the sky with soft orange clouds. 

With everyone finally back in their seats, students performed the tradition of moving tassels to the left and exchanged hugs. 

Mawil Mateo can be reached at [email protected].