Bakersfield College leaders reflect on graduation as petition forms demanding second ceremony

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A petition is making the rounds calling on Bakersfield College to hold a second graduation ceremony. This comes after hundreds of family members and friends of graduates were unable to enter Rabobank Arena, the location of the graduation, when it reached capacity at 10,000. 

“I’m not going to be able to see him get his degree, and share that moment with him, said Antonette Giron of her nephew, “so I’m very upset.”

Norma Rojas-Mora, director of communications and community relations for Bakersfield College, told 17 news that the ceremony is usually held at Memorial Stadium on campus. The stadium can hold 18,000 people, but it could not be used this year due to renovations. She said what happened at Rabobank Arena last week was unfortunate, but insisted public safety took priority.

“We were at capacity, and our agreement with Rabobank was to enforce their rules and follow their capacity rules,” Rojas-Mora said. “We recognize it is not the same as in person, but given the safety issues, we had to ensure the safety of the guests in the arena.”
 
When the arena reached capacity, she said the Bakersfield College administration took took steps to mitigate the issue.

“We talked to Rabobank to see what could be done. We opened floor seating for families so that 200 to 300 family members were allowed onto the floor for seating. They also allowed us to open the concourse area, so as graduate names were being called out, we turned on the screens for those family members.”

But some people complained that was not enough. A change petition is making the rounds. Its author, who referred to graduation as the worst day of her life, is calling for a new ceremony at memorial stadium. More than 200 people already have signed on.   

BC did not directly respond to the petition, but said it is in the planning stages to ensure next year’s graduation is a success.

“Next year’s commencement will be held at memorial, where we have the ability to open more seats, so given that, we know e won’t have the issue moving forward.”

Even though the petition calls for another class of 2019 ceremony to be held at memorial stadium, the stadium’s renovation project will not be complete until roughly this time next year. While Bakersfield College did not hand out ticket’s for this year’s graduation, it remains unclear if the institution plans to do so next year.

Meantime, a number of high school graduations that typically take place at memorial stadium, have been moved elsewhere including Rabobank arena. 

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