Fate of yearbook and commencement tickets spark student discussion, resulting in petition

After the announcement of the discontinuation of the yearbook The Shadow and the number of tickets graduates would receive for commencement, students responded with criticism on social media.

By Samantha Brandbergh, Megan Lupo and Austin Ferguson

After a report concerning the absence of Rider’s yearbook The Shadow, another announcement has been made regarding the amount of tickets students receive for this year’s commencement ceremony, generating conversation on social media and on campus. 

An email sent on March 27 from Rider Commencement resulted in students speaking out, mostly with criticism.

According to the email, graduates will be given eight tickets each and two parking passes for this year’s ceremony.

“The number of tickets available is based upon the number of degree candidates and arena seating,” the email read. 

Trenton’s CURE Insurance Arena, where commencement is taking place, seats nearly 8,600 people, according to its website. 

Senior digital media major Emily Row has started a petition titled “8 Tickets Doesn’t Fly with Class of 2018 (Also Yearbook??)” concerning both issues, which has been circulating Facebook in the last week.

“Last year, when the ceremony was switched to this stadium, seniors were able to request more tickets should they need to accommodate a larger family,” Row’s petition reads. “This year, however, we have been robbed of that option.”

As stated in the email from Rider Commencement, students can request eight additional tickets through a survey, but “there is no guarantee all requests can be granted.”

Senior public relations major and senior class president Gabriella Pasquini noted that there will be another opportunity for students to get more tickets. 

Students can place their unneeded commencement tickets in a bucket at Senior Send-Off on April 26, and an email will be sent to those who have requested more, she said. 

Those who have signed Row’s petition raise concerns over the amount of tickets, saying they come from large families who have supported them “financially, emotionally and academically” during their time at Rider. 

“This is super important to me because I’m a first generation graduate,” senior business administration major Sejada Irons wrote on the petition site. “My family from both sides wants to be there to celebrate because they all contributed to me being able to graduate.”

Row said she had confronted the Commencement Office on the ceremony ticket allocation, and said the response in an email stated to “ask classmates who do not need all their allotted tickets if you could have the extras.” 

Pasquini added that although some students claim that last year’s graduates received 18 tickets, the actual amount was eight and any additional tickets were the result of applying for them. 

Although Pasquini is senior class president, she had no say in how many tickets each graduate would receive. The number of commencement tickets is decided by Bev Braddock, director of auxiliary services, while the parking passes are determined by the venue, Pasquini added.

“Everyone is saying the arena is so big. What we need to understand is that it’s not a concert,” she said. “The arena gets cut in half. No one’s going to be sitting behind the screen. No one wants to sit in the nosebleed sections.”

While Pasquini said she is only using five of her eight tickets, she understands why her fellow classmates are upset. 

“Not everyone is from New Jersey. If you’re from North Carolina or Florida and you told your family graduation is May 11, you have to pick and choose who can come,” she said. “I can see why people can get frustrated with the amount of tickets we do have. These are calculated numbers. There are more graduating seniors this year, I believe, than last year, so you have to put things into consideration.”

Row’s petition also commented on the announcement of the discontinuation of the yearbook, The Shadow. In past years, graduating seniors would pay a $10 sitting fee for senior portraits and would receive a yearbook. This year, students still paid $10, but will not get the yearbook.

“When the final decision was made, the opinions of the student body were not a factor,” Row said. 

In a Facebook post responding to The Rider News’ story about The Shadow, junior public relations major Christina Boniello voiced her concern over the reasons for ending the annual publication.

“It’s frustrating now to see administration put in charge of yearbook, somewhat blaming lack of student involvement,” Boniello wrote.  “We were there. We were dedicated. We were passionate. And they took that from us.”

The yearbook was ultimately discontinued due to low student involvement and a lack of an advisor after university photographer Peter Borg resigned from the position in 2017. Borg said he was considered a “volunteer” and was not paid.. 

“Unsuccessful attempts were made to locate another willing faculty or staff advisor,” Vice President for Student Affairs Leanna Fenneberg said. “Faculty and staff advisors to student organizations volunteer their time, and it is difficult to recruit an advisor for yearbook given the significant time demands of this position.”

Not only did Row and Boniello spend time designing a yearbook that would no longer be distributed, they also lost financial compensation.

As a yearbook staff member, Row said, students received an $8,000 scholarship for the year, as well as getting paid hourly minimum wage. However, after corresponding with Borg via email regarding “the future of student involvement in the yearbook,” she noticed the scholarship was gone.

Boniello recently wrote and published an article on Rider’s chapter of The Odyssey, expressing her concerns and disappointment with the fate of the yearbook. 

The article, “Kill The Yearbook? Dear Rider, How Dare You,” describes the experiences Boniello and Row endured toward the end of the yearbook, stating that their login information was taken away temporarily. 

“I got an email from our [yearbook company, Herff Jones] representative [Caren Demyen] saying all the layouts had been updated and access was given back to all staff members,” she wrote. “That didn’t answer the question: Why was it taken away to begin with? I’m not sure we ever really got an explanation.”

Boniello said that Borg contacted her via email, stating that at that point in the semester, the staff needed to “change how things [were] being done” and there wasn’t enough time to customize layout. 

Students have spoken out using the petition to spread their messages about commencement and The Shadow. As of April 3, 148 people have signed.

“A part of me is upset for the people who are upset,” Pasquini said. “I can see it as something that students will utilize after school to show their kids and to have some legacy to take home with them.” She also expressed her interest in creating a “virtual yearbook” for the class of 2018 to showcase their year. 

As far as the petition, however, Pasquini said she “can’t take those things personally.”

“I think initiatives like that are helpful for a college campus,” she added. “If you’re passionate about something, there are people who are going to help you get your voice heard and make a statement on campus. I think that what [Row] did was super bold, and that’s awesome.”

 

Published in the 4/4/18 edition.

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