Message from President Keizs: York College Commencement 2014

I am writing to bring to your attention a decision I am preparing to make regarding the Commencement Committee's recommendation to hold three distinct commencement exercises on the same day, by school, for our students, and to host the exercises in the Milton G. Bassin Performing Arts Center.

This year's commencements will take place on Friday, May 30, with the exercises for the School of Health and Behavioral Sciences beginning at 9:00 AM, the School of Arts and Sciences at 1:00 PM, and the School of Business and Information Systems at 5:00 PM.

The proposed new format will enable the college community and our guests to participate in and enjoy the exercises in a climate controlled venue where neither rain nor heat will mar the event. While the recommendations call for smaller exercises by school that will provide everyone-students, faculty and staff-with the personal touch that so many of our current students and alumni value in their experience at York, they also call strongly for the preservation of the value that we are one York College and for that common value to be reflected in the exercises of each school.

As you may be aware, the Commencement Committee has proposed a series of alternate solutions over the past few years in response to rising costs of renting a tent and other expenses associated with staging a single outdoor event. The increasing expenses have become financially unsustainable and have threatened to derail a worthy commencement exercise. You will remember that last year we were unable to afford a tent, except for the platform party. Many in attendance-students, faculty, staff, and families-retreated from the heat as soon as they could. Many students left the exercises immediately after they crossed the stage. This made for a commencement where more chairs were empty than were occupied as we moved to the middle and the end of graduates crossing the stage. Not a very inspiring picture from where I stood.

The committee has pondered moving the exercises off campus to another venue in Queens, but neither the cost nor the vicissitudes of weather suggest we would achieve a better guaranteed result. Most of our students, the prime constituents, oppose the idea of moving our commencement exercises off campus. It is important to students for their loved ones to see them graduate on their own campus. Venues like Citi Field, attractive as it might sound, do not provide any guarantee against unforgiving weather as most of the field is exposed to the elements.

As for the matter of the tent and its cost, the College has considered a commencement fee, and while that idea is still on the table, we do not see the point of using that fee to rent a tent and pay the City of New York for a permit of assembly annually. Both costs escalate with each passing year.

We have tried the tentless approach; it is not a hospitable one. Now we believe we must try something different. Many public schools in the surrounding communities, by their repeated use over the past decade, have found the Milton G. Bassin Theater a great venue in which to hold their commencement exercises, why not ours? The Theater is large enough to accommodate the individual exercises of each school. As with so many of our activities, assessment is critical. A new commencement model will be no different.

A discussion with students about the new model was greeted with great enthusiasm. Conversations, thus far, with faculty and staff have been generally favorable. Please share with me any comments you may have about the new model the Commencement Committee has recommended we pilot.

Should you have any questions, please contact me at 718-262-2350 or email See you at commencement on May 30.


President Marcia V. Keizs