After more than 350 people signed a petition requesting a speaker at Binghamton University’s 2014 College of Community and Public Affairs (CCPA) commencement ceremony, the administration has agreed to the addition.
Laura Bronstein, dean of CCPA, sent a public letter to the school on April 14 announcing the change that would be made in time for graduation.
“Since we are allotted a very short timeframe for our entire ceremony, with another ceremony immediately before and after ours, we don’t have much time, but I certainly think we can allocate 5 minutes as you requested for a student speaker,” Bronstein wrote in the letter.
The petition was created by Natalie Teboul, a senior majoring in human development, who said that she initially was met with hesitance.
“I actually went to speak with the assistant to the dean first and when she didn’t change her mind, I needed to do to prove how important it was,” Teboul wrote in an email. “It’s so nice to know that they listened to us and understand where we are coming from.”
According to Bronstein, there was no student speaker at the CCPA graduation because of the crowded schedule and because of a model for graduation that has been in place since 2006.
“We investigated and learned that all other schools/colleges have student speakers,” Bronstein wrote in an email. “We thought we could accommodate the additional 5 minutes for something so important to the student body.”
Teboul reached out to classes within the school and to CCPA students for signatures, including Danielle Sirota.
“I think the key aspect that makes this matter so important is because graduating from college is a big deal,” said Sirota, a junior majoring in human development. “Each and every one of us should be proud of ourselves, as we should have a speaker who relates to us on that caliber of excitement. Someone to say ‘we did it’ instead of ‘you did it’ makes a big difference.”
To get more support, Teboul distributed the petition among others connected to the University including alumni, parents of graduates and students from other BU colleges.
“I graduated from CCPA last year and was very disappointed that we did not have a student speaker, it truly detracts from the ceremony to skip it. It is about the student accomplishments, they should have the biggest voice,” wrote alumna Eve Wool when signing.
Mindy Berkowitz, a parent of a CCPA graduate, said the CCPA needed a relevant student voice.
“My daughter worked very hard in CCPA, and my family and I would like to hear the words of encouragement from a student representative,” she wrote in the petition.
Bronstein said she was glad to be a part of the change made by the CCPA students, and the speaker is something that may continue into the future.
“At CCPA we educate students to be effective change agents and advocates, and are glad when they effectively utilize those skills,” Bronstein wrote. “I get asked a lot of things as Dean and I can’t always be responsive, but I am glad I could be in this circumstance …We will gather input from faculty, staff and students regarding what should be part of future graduations. If they want to continue to have a student speaker, I don’t see a reason at this point, why that couldn’t be.”