The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

Student speaker speeches will go online, college leaders to give remarks at commencement

El Camino College Class of 2019 attends the 72nd Commencement Ceremony at the Murdock Stadium on Friday, June 7, 2019. (Elena Perez | The Union)

El Camino College’s upcoming graduation ceremony on Friday, June 7 will not have physical student speakers or a keynote speaker, officials said.

The 77th Annual El Camino College Commencement Program will instead have students’ speeches posted online and not have a video stream of the event, which officials say was done to save time and money.

The news of the cancellations was first made public by the Associated Students Organization on May 8, which released a statement on Instagram criticizing the decision made by the college.

ASO President Jose Merino, who will be graduating, expressed his disappointment with the cancellations and lack of student input in the decision.

“It’s pretty disheartening to hear the institution not trusting students enough to be able to spread their message and to unify students… where we’re able to celebrate each other’s achievements,” Merino said. “I would love to see a student speaker at this commencement.”

Merino was interviewed about the cancellation one day after the ASO’s Instagram statement, and was under the impression he and Student Trustee Connor Lai would not be able to speak at the event.

That was reversed when El Camino released its public statement on May 15, a full week after the ASO’s post, stating that due to 15 students requesting to speak, it will print all speeches out rather than having students speak.

The statement also said in part that both Merino and Lai would give celebratory remarks at the commencement.

El Camino President Brenda Thames will also give a speech at the commencement, bringing the total number of speakers to three.

Lai, who was interviewed after El Camino’s statement, viewed it positively.

“[It’s] representative for the student body to have their elected officials go and speak and provide remarks on behalf of students to congratulate them on their graduation,” Lai said.

Instead of giving a speech at the commencement, students who applied to speak would have their speech printed online and in the program for the commencement and would be acknowledged in the event.

The decision to print out student speeches and cut the keynote speaker altogether comes as colleges across the nation grapple with their own graduation problems.

At the University of Southern California, officials dropped a keynote speaker before canceling their graduation ceremony altogether amid growing pro-Palestine protests on campus.

It also comes one year after El Camino’s last commencement ceremony, when outgoing ASO President Jana Abulaban gave a speech supporting Palestine.

The commencement, which was livestreamed by El Camino, was picked up and criticized by right-wing news outlets and thrusted the college into the international spotlight and was subject to debates on antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

El Camino claims the current changes to the commencement ceremony have nothing to do with the speech and are cost-cutting and time-saving measures amid the college’s budget crisis.

“…the budget situation has affected the institution a little bit further than we expected,” Student Development Office Director Ricky Gonzalez said. “And in reality too, it’s also to streamline the ceremony to make it quicker.”

The statement from El Camino, which is signed by both Gonzalez and Thames, claims that one of the reasons the speeches were cut down was because they “noted that large numbers of students departed early due to the length of the ceremony.”

Other changes to the ceremony include installing an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant flooring, no live bands playing and a smaller overall footprint for the event.

With the recent Board of Trustees meeting on May 20, the college will have spent $120,000 for the commencement ceremony.

“I know that there’s a lot of stuff happening in the community, but at the end of the day, we’re here to celebrate our students and their accomplishments and we hope to see everyone there,” Gonzalez said.

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