Hundreds of students rally to save graduation

By Ashley Oglesby

Is 323 student voices enough?

On Nov. 14, several Collegian staff members visited three of GPC’s five campuses: Decatur, Clarkston and Dunwoody, to inform students that the fall commencement had been cancelled and to gather signatures for a petition representing the concerns of the student voice.

In one week, the Collegian gathered 218 physical signatures, 105 electronic signatures and 40 likes on the “Save GPC Fall Graduation” Facebook page, in favor of reversing the administration’s decision to cancel the fall graduation.

The announcement to cancel the fall graduation ceremony came on Sept. 21 from the Office of the President to students’ GPC email address. It explained that the fall ceremony would be cancelled in order to save the college $14,000.

“Most students still don’t know because they don’t check their student email addresses,” said David Schick, Collegian editor-in-chief.

Sam Inyana, a fall graduate, told the Collegian that he did not know that the commencement had been canceled. “We paid for it so we should have the choice to whether or not we want to attend,” said Inyana.

Schick spoke with GPC’s Student Government Association Presidents on Nov. 13 to discuss students’ concerns.

“20 students are not worth mobilizing so much effort for,” said Juan Rodriguez, Dunwoody SGA president, referring to the 20 likes on the then 5-day-old “Save GPC Fall Graduation” Facebook page. Rodriguez said that time is running out and they have not heard from the students.

GPC’s Alpharetta SGA president Shrena Jenkins mentioned that they have already planned to spend their time and allocated money on other events and they cannot be rearranged. “We have other things to do,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins’ concern was that she “wouldn’t want a rinky-dink graduation.” She noted that she had experience with planning events before and doing this last minute just wouldn’t work.

Schick proposed that if teachers and students were asked to volunteer their services to set up for fall graduation that many would do so.

“I wouldn’t mind doing it for free,” said Justin Camp, a GPC student that assists in the setup of the graduation.

Jenkins and Mela Persis, Newton SGA president, claimed that teachers on their campuses are already overworked and could not help.

“My thought was that the SGA would be communicating with the administration to work something out,” said State Rep. Michele Henson (D-District 87) on an Oct. 29 phone interview with the Collegian.

However, not all SGA members are on the same accord.

Jauquinn McCullough, Dunwoody SGA vice president, approached the Collegian as they petitioned on his campus. “I don’t know about Juan, but I am for the students,” said McCullough as he signed the petition to revive fall graduation.

Fall graduates filled out a graduation application and were charged a $25 fee. According to the application form, “Those completing requirements in summer and fall will participate in the December ceremony.”

In the Sept. announcement, fall graduates were invited to attend the spring ceremony at the Civic Center, but there will be no refund for students that don’t, or can’t, participate.

GPC students who filled out a graduation application might have legal cause to sue due to a breach of contract.

“Nothing about being in school changes the basic element of a contract and if you sell them something for $25 you either give them the thing or give them the $25,” said Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center.

Schick questions GPC’s reasoning of cancelling fall graduation to save money based on a May 10 email from Chancellor Hank Huckaby email obtained by the Collegian which proposed a $27,000 raise in salary for Rob Watts, GPC’s interim president, at the time of his appointment.

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