Some graduating Ohio State students are speaking out against the university’s decision to limit guests for the Spring Commencement ceremony on May 5, and trying to secure extra seats through other methods.
The decision to have a maximum number of four guests per student was cited as a security measure for President Barack Obama, who was announced as the spring commencement speaker Wednesday.
Board of Trustees Secretary David Horn, who served on the Commencement Speaker Selection Committee, said the renovations on the concrete in Ohio Stadium also contributed to the ticket limit.
“I was flustered,” said Joshua Glocer, a fourth-year in global science. “It’s nerve-wracking to tell people that you care about, and that care about you, that you only have four tickets.”
Guests will need a ticket to attend the ceremony, but graduates will not. Students will be able to receive up to four tickets with a photo ID.
“It sucks because I already have six people coming from Los Angeles where I’m from and they already bought their plane tickets. It’s going to be hard to tell two people that they can’t come,” Glocer said.
Katherine Grimm, a fourth-year in psychology and human resources, had previously invited about 10 to 15 people to attend her graduation at Ohio Stadium.
“I’m kind of ticked just because we have a big enough venue for students to bring as many guests as (they would) like to see them graduate, and I think that’s something Ohio State students are privileged to have. If we have that ability we should be able to use it,” Grimm said.
OSU is anticipating its largest graduating class to date with an estimated 12,000 graduates, said Amy Murray, a university spokeswoman.
“We generally do not ask our guests to have tickets, but we will this time,” Murray said. “We’re also dealing with the largest graduating class ever. It’s going to be bigger than it’s ever been, even bigger than last year, which was also the largest graduating class ever. They keep getting larger.”
With an estimated 12,000 graduates, and an additional 48,000 guests if each graduate brings four guests, Eric Mayer, a fourth-year in sport industry, said the numbers don’t add up given the stadium capacity of more than 100,000 people.
“I understand the president is coming and it’s important to protect his safety,” Mayer said. “But I think they could still do it.”
Mayer said he was “not pleased” that only about half of the stadium will be used, and other students agreed.
“I don’t see the logic in how they can’t expand. It doesn’t make sense because it’s just a numbers game,” Glocer said.
Some students are considering buying tickets from eligible graduates who will not be participating in the ceremony or do not have four guests attending. The Ohio State University Class of 2013 Facebook page already lists people looking to buy tickets and others offering theirs to the highest bidder.
“If I could get my hands on more tickets, it would be great but everyone will be trying to get them,” Grimm said. “I don’t want to put my family in a position to pay a ton of money to see me graduate.”
Mayer also said he would be interested in buying tickets for the ceremony.
“I’m hoping to pull some strings,” he said.
However, students said they are still excited for the opportunity to hear Obama speak at commencement.
“To be able to have the president of the United States come and speak at our graduation is very special, especially being that he is the first African-American president we’ve ever had, and our school celebrates diversity,” Mayer said.
Glocer, who attended Obama’s inauguration in 2009, also said he was excited.
“I think it truly is a remarkable event, I can’t wait to be a part of it,” Glocer said.
Grimm said she wished OSU would have selected a speaker that every graduate could enjoy, regardless of political views.
“It’s a big deal to have the president speak at your grad(uation) even if you don’t like him,” Grimm said. “But as much as I’m excited, I wish OSU would have picked a politically neutral person to speak. He’s been to Ohio State seven or eight times in the past year and everyone’s gotten their dose of him.”
Obama has been to campus five times in the past three years and kicked off his re-election campaign at the Schottenstein Center on May 5, 2012, exactly a year before he is expected to be at graduation.
Allison Bourg graduated from OSU in 2002 with a degree in journalism when former President George W. Bush was the commencement speaker. This was the last time the sitting president spoke at an OSU commencement. There was not a ticket limit then, and Bourg received about 10 tickets for her guests, but security was still a concern.
“I mainly remember definitely seeing snipers around the stadium area. My family had come out from west Pennsylvania to see the ceremony, and they had to go through long security lines. It was similar to what you see at airports. They were checking all of us,” she said.