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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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  • Charter Member of the GPC 282

    can’t help but wonder how many custodial jobs or PT OIT positions might have been saved with the $27,000 proposed for Mr. Watts.

  • Meredith Hoffman

    Thanks for your reply, Alan.

    Shene Heard – to clear up any misgivings about my lack of providing a title, I am not an SGA member, per se. I am the Publicity Chair for the Jaguar Activity Group. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m also the Technology & Events Officer for the History & Political Science Club, a member of the Outdoor Adventure Club, the president of the newly formed National Society of Collegiate Scholars GPC chapter, and a member of the IT Policy Council.

    That’s all just window dressing. For the purposes of my comments, I am a GPC student.

    Meredith Hoffman
    GPC Student

    • micheal

      JAG is a part of SGA, did you read the constitution?

  • Shene Heard

    I think its important to mention that Meredith Hoffman is a SGA member. ISN’T IT APPROPRIATE TO STATE YOUR TITLE WHEN YOU ARE GIVEN YOUR TITLE?
    I think the reporter simply stated what the newspaper will do for the students and what the STUDENT GOVERNMENT won’t.

  • Meredith Hoffman

    Considering that the $25 graduation fee stands regardless of whether or not a student decides to attend the commencement ceremony, I really don’t see how students have a right to sue. Leave that aspect to the legal experts though. What’s more important is how this sensationalist journalism is the best our college’s newspaper can manage. Graduation is not canceled. It’s been adjusted to once a year. Any GPC student who is graduating may attend commencement. Yes, there will only be one commencement ceremony for the academic year, but that is standard practice at most colleges and universities.

    This school has many issues going on right now due to the financial fiasco of a few months ago. Are you contributing to a SOLUTION by fueling anger over an issue that most students are not concerned about? 375 students out of GPC’s 10,000+ students are outraged enough to sign a piece of paper? Is this really the battle we should be fighting right now?

    You mention an alleged $27,000 pay raise for Rob Watts. How about some more details on this? For instance, how much is his pay compared to what a permanent GPC president would make? Is this a raise over the amount of money he was paid the last time he served as GPC’s interim president, what, 10 years ago? Or is it a raise over his pay from his position just prior to coming to GPC?

    Personally, I’m glad that our SGA presidents are taking up the issues that either the student body is actually concerned with or they believe will be a benefit for GPC’s students. Whenever you quote someone out of context, you place them in a potentially compromising situation. I am confident, however, that unbalanced articles such as these will not sway their perseverance in doing what they believe is truly best for this student body.

    How about a similar philosophy from our college’s newspaper through more substance and less sensationalism?

    Meredith Hoffman
    GPC Student

    • asimpson

      We appreciate your comments. You made several good points. Most importantly, the fact that this came across as sensationalism is of great concern to the editorial staff at the Collegian. We knew before we took any action with regards to commencement that this would be tricky territory as journalists. The Collegian has one concern: providing a voice for the students of GPC. When it came to the fall commencement issue, the Collegian’s level of involvement was due entirely to the fact that no other organization, including the SGA, was interested in giving the students a voice. We heard from many students who were outraged. Several SGA members seemed interested in taking up the students’ cause, but an inside source told us once they spoke to their faculty advisers, they were no longer willing to say the cancellation of fall commencement was a problem.
      Personally, I have stayed out of the commencement issue. I wouldn’t have seen it as a huge deal, except that students didn’t find out about it until late September – and via an email account that, frankly, most students don’t even check. This is no way to give notice about something of this magnitude.
      Furthermore, while the Collegian recognizes that a few hundred of the 22,000+ students doesn’t seem like much, most of those students were found in just a few hours of walking around three of our campuses. Imagine if everyone knew what was going on and what they could do about it. How many signatures would be on that petition then? Many GPC students have no idea this is even an issue. It’s our job to let them know.
      As for the Rob Watts salary issue, those are good questions. As I mention in my opinion piece, Watts was making $223,000 with the USG before his appointment as interim president. For some reason, Chancellor Huckaby proposed to give him an immediate $27,000 raise as he took the helm of an institution mired in debt and controversy. In comparison, outgoing President Anthony Tricoli – who, despite whatever his faults were, oversaw substantial growth at this college – was making $198,000.
      We are very aware of the financial struggles of this school. In fact, no one has reported more thoroughly on them than the Collegian. We just don’t believe these struggles should give the administration carte blanche to make whatever cuts they feel like making. The students pay the bills. Why weren’t the students consulted about how those bills should change?
      I get your point, and it’s viable. We should be reporting on fires, not starting them. But what do you do when you look around and realize NO ONE is standing up for the students?
      Having heard you speak before, I know you have some of the same concerns the Collegian has. I’m glad you let us know we didn’t share the same viewpoint on this one. Thank you for reading; your input will continue to make this publication better for the students it serves.

      Alan Simpson
      Associate Editor
      The Collegian